Rich Hill Film Review

Rust Belt “New Normal” Chronicled in Diminished Dreams Documentary

Some American towns have been hard-hit, but not all of them are facing problems due to the economy. Some towns are based on natural resources, and sometimes, those resources run out.

Once that happens, things can quickly go from bad to worse, and then people start leaving. Sometimes, though, for one reason or another, some people hold on.

Rich Hill, Missouri is a ghost town on hard times. Located about seventy miles south of Kansas City, the population of this once-thriving mining metropolis has dwindled down to 1,393 since the last of the coal was unearthed from the ground.

The lack of a sufficient tax base to maintain the city’s infrastructure is reflected in such urban blight as boarded up storefronts, potholed roads, abandoned farms, and the corner pharmacy and company bank reduced to rubble. Today, the remaining residents find themselves stuck in a godforsaken no man’s land marked by social dysfunction and high unemployment.

Nevertheless, there is an undeniable optimism among young Andrew, Harley and Appachey. These three boys are the subject of Rich Hill, a heartbreaking expose chronicling Rich Hill’s new normal in terms of the American Dream.

Co-directed by Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos, the picture won the 2014 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in the Best Documentary category. As the cousins’ camera follows the trio around, you can’t help but notice the crumbling exoskeleton in the background that looks almost post-apocalyptic. Could this really be the good ole U.S. of A?

Meanwhile, each kid has a quite compelling story to share. 13 year-old Andrew worries about his family subsisting when not practicing the latest dance steps with his sister. Appachey, 12, wants to teach art in China when he grows up. But first, he has to repeat the 6th grade. And 15 year-old Harley has a great sense of humor despite the fact that he misses his convict mother imprisoned for the attempted murder of the sick stepfather who’d molested him.

The Rust Belt’s “New Normal” depicted as a desolate, depressed dystopia dotted with street urchins a tad too naive to appreciate their dire life prospects.

Very Good (3 stars)


Running time: 91 minutes

Distributor: The Orchard

See a trailer for Rich Hill:

Kam Williams is a popular and top NewsBlaze reviewer, our chief critic. Kam gives his unvarnished opinion on movies, DVDs and books, plus many in-depth and revealing celebrity interviews.

Sadly, Lloyd Kam Williams passed away in 2019, leaving behind a huge body of work focused on America’s black entertainment community. We were as sad to hear of his passing as we were overjoyed to have him as part of our team.