County Judge: Documentary Film and Community Forums
The County Judge documentary is a joint endeavor of Eastern Kentucky University and Appalshop. It is a campus-community partnership based in Letcher County, Kentucky that explores the influence that enduring local traditions, attitudes, and growing mistrust of government has on how and why we vote. The project includes the production of a documentary film and a series of forums facilitated by Eastern Kentucky students. The Appalshop film production focuses on the 2006 election for County Judge-Executive in Letcher County, and examines the history of County politics in Kentucky, the role of the Democratic and Republican parties in the region, and the level of public awareness and involvement in the process. Appalshop filmmakers employ an observational and intimate style, following the campaign and election through close and direct contact with the candidates, magistrates, local power brokers, and county residents. Through the gaze of this immediate and unfolding story, the film engages the audience around issues of civic commitment in local governance and investigates the increasing influence of corporate and private interests in political races. Community Forums were conducted by EKU students in Letcher County prior to the primary election. The forums addressed issues of community organizing and involvement in the political process. The filmmakers documented these discussions and incorporated them into the narrative structure of the film. This work provided students first-hand access to the local political process and served as a catalyst for education and a tool for respectful dialogue in the community.