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Film screening and panel to examine the image of hillbillies in media and culture

Morehead State was founded as a “light to the mountains” and has historically educated people in Eastern Kentucky. An event this spring will examine how others look at the people of Eastern Kentucky, often described as “hillbillies.” 

On Tuesday, April 9, MSU will host a screening of two films: “Stranger with a Camera” and “hillbilly” in the Adron Doran University Center Theater. A panel discussion will examine the image of the hillbilly in media and culture historically and currently. The event begins at 4 p.m. with music from the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music’s Traditional Music Ensemble.  

“Stranger with a Camera” will show at 4:30 p.m., followed by the panel discussion at 5:30 p.m. “hillbilly” will show at 6:30 p.m. and will be followed by a question-and-answer session. 

The panel discussion includes Dr. Thomas Kiffmeyer, MSU associate professor of history; Dr. Sue Tallichet, MSU professor of sociology; and Ashley York, co-director of “hillbilly” and lecturer at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Steve Middleton, instructor of mass communication and documentary filmmaker, will serve as moderator for the panel and emcee for the event. 

Dr. Thomas Kiffmeyer is an Appalachian historian and author of “Reformers to Radicals: The Appalachian Volunteers and the War on Poverty.” His research interests include social movements and popular culture, Kentucky and Appalachian history and the War on Poverty. He is a graduate of Miami University-Oxford (Ohio), Eastern Kentucky University and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky. 

Dr. Suzanne Tallichet is a sociologist and author of “Daughters of the Mountain: Women Coal Miners in Appalachia.” Her research interests include rural sociology, gender inequality and animals in society. She has a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. 

Ashley York is a Kentucky-born media maker and film producer. She has worked on Academy Award® nominated teams and as a director and producer on projects that have premiered at the Sundance, Berlin, Los Angeles, and SXSW film festivals as well as on Netflix, HBO, Oprah Winfrey's Network, A&E, National Geographic, and the Sundance Channel. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Kentucky and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts' Interactive Media Division. She is the co-director, writer, and producer of “hillbilly.” 

 “Stranger with a Camera” is a documentary film that examines the shooting of Canadian filmmaker Hugh O’Connor who came to the region to document conditions of poverty. He was shot by Kentuckian Hobart Ison in 1967 when tensions between the media and community reached a fever pitch. The film is directed by Elizabeth Barret and produced by Appalshop. Visit for more information. 

“hillbilly” is a documentary film that features bell hooks, Ronny Cox and Billy Redden from “Deliverance,” director Michael Apted, activists and writers Frank X Walker, Crystal Good and Silas House, and musicians Sam Gleaves and Amythyst Kiah. “hillbilly” confronts depictions of Appalachian and other rural people on a broad, national level. The film is directed and produced by Sally Rubin and Ashley York and was awarded the Documentary Award from the LA Film Festival in 2018 and the Special Award for Documentary Filmmaking by the Traverse City Film Festival. It was also selected for the Beloit International Film Festival, DOC NYC, Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival, the Heartland International Film Festival and many others. It also won the Jack Spadaro Documentary Award from the Appalachian Studies Association. Visit for more information. 

This event is presented by the Caudill College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and CoffeeTree Books. 

To learn more about arts, humanities and social sciences programs at Morehead State, visit or call 606-783-5046.