An Innovative Look at Appalachians Through the Cinematic Gaze of Sara Colangelo’s Little Accidents (2014).

One only has to give a cursory glance at J. W. Williamson’s seminal text Hillbillyland: What the Movies Did to the Mountains and What the Mountains Did to the Movies (1995) to quickly understand how Appalachians have systematically been depicted in negative or stereotypical ways on the silver screen. The objective of my research is to study the imagery of a contemporary film, writer/director Sara Colangelo’s award-winning Little Accidents (2014), to see if and how representations of Appalachians are evolving. This film offers viewers a deeply moving look at a small, coal mining town and the trauma endured by its residents after a devastating mining disaster. With its authentic, complex characters; heart- wrenching story, and indelible setting, the film has much to recommend it, especially its unusual cinematography, which is extremely compelling and worthy of more critical attention. This presentation will examine some of this striking visual imagery through close analysis of film stills, which reveals a reworking of traditional tropes of Appalachian photography as well as an indebtedness to Renaissance and Baroque art, sacred themes and motifs. What emerges from this iconographic study is one filmmaker’s new vision of Appalachians: one not characterized primarily by poverty, violence, and exploitation, but by transcendence as articulated through the stylized lens of aesthetics, religion, and rich artistic tradition.