Rich Hill

Rich Hill

  • BY Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos | IN Youth & Family
    Premiered January 5, 2015

About the Film

Rich Hill, winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary, goes inside the homes and lives of small town America, where kids confront heartbreaking choices, marginalized parents struggle to survive, and families cling to the promise of equal opportunity and a better life — someday. The film follows three teenage boys, Andrew, Harley, and Appachey, as they struggle with isolation, broken families, and lack of opportunity, providing an immersive and realistic picture of growing up poor in America. MORE

Rich Hill, Missouri, population 1393, is 70 miles south of Kansas City and 15 miles east of the Kansas border. Once a thriving mining town, Rich Hill’s decline began when the coal was mined out shortly after World War II. Today, like many other small towns in America, it has fallen on hard times, as have the families who still call it home.

First cousins Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo share a deep bond and affection for Rich Hill, the hometown of their parents. Despite its current bleak circumstances, they felt drawn to portray the daily challenges townspeople face, and to focus in particular on the lives of these three teenage boys. As they ride their skateboards and go to football practice, Andrew, Harley, and Appachey are like millions of other boys coming of age the world over. But faced with difficult circumstances — isolation, instability, and parental unemployment — adolescence can be a daily struggle just to survive. With no road map and all evidence to the contrary, they cling to the hope that even they can live the American dream.

The film bears witness to the challenges facing the millions of American children living in rural poverty today, and reveals the sustaining power of family bonds. While there is sometimes shame in their circumstances, these children have immense pride in their families, however fractured they may be, because family means having a reason for being, and a place in the world.


The Filmmakers

Tracy Droz Tragos, Director/Producer

Headshot of Rich Hill filmmakers Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo.Award-winning independent filmmaker Tracy Droz Tragos’s first film was Be Good, Smile Pretty, a powerful documentary about the profound and complicated feelings of loss caused by the deaths of American men in the Vietnam War, some 35 years later. The film aired on Independent Lens and won the 2004 Emmy for Best Documentary, as well as the Jury Award for Best Documentary at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and a Cine Golden Eagle Award. Tragos participated in a year-long engagement campaign reaching thousands of veterans and their families.

Tragos is developing both narrative and documentary films through her production company Dinky Pictures. The stories that fascinate Tragos are personal and intimate, that make connections that hold universal truths.

Tragos’s work has received support from the Sundance Institute, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, ITVS, and others. She is a Film Independent Documentary Lab and Sundance Lab alumnae, participating as both a director and a producer. In 2014, Tragos was one of six filmmakers invited to participate in Sundance’s Women Filmmakers Initiative.

Andrew Droz Palermo, Director/Producer/Cinematographer

Andrew Droz Palermo, a Missouri native, recently completed post-production on his fiction narrative debut One & Two, a dark fairy tale following two kids with unusual abilities. Moving fluidly between directing and cinematography, in early 2014 he shot Hannah Fidell’s 6 Years, produced by Mark Duplass.

He was tapped as one of Filmmaker Magazine's "25 New Faces of Independent Film of 2013," and also served as cinematographer on films such as You're Next (directed by Adam Wingard), A Teacher(directed by Hannah Fidell), and Black Metal (directed by Kat Candler). Palermo lives in Los Angeles. LESS

Film Credits

Produced and Directed by
Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo

Jim Hession

Music by
Nathan Halpern

Director of Photography
Andrew Droz Palermo

Executive Producers
Robert A.Compton and Michael J. Zak

David Armillei and Chris Tragos

Sound Mixers and Boom Operators
Greg Armstrong
Jesse Brown

Additional Photography
Michael J. Wilson

Additional Editing
Andrew Droz Palermo
Tracy Droz Tragos
William Haugse

Editorial Advisors
Doug Blush
Jean Tsien
Robb Moss

Music Supervisor
Kate Urcioli

Post-Production Sound Services
Skywalker Sound

Sound Designer and Re-Recording Mixer
Pete Horner

Sound Effects Editor
Andre Zweers

Foley Editor
Steve Bissinger
Zach Martin

Foley Artists
Andrea Gard
Frank Rinella

Foley Recordist
Frank Rinella

Digital Editorial Support
Danny Caccavo
Ryan J Frias
Scott Levine

Digital Intermediate
Prehistoric Digital

Chris Hall

Digital Intermediate Producer
William Adashek

Digital Intermediate Producer
Kevin Cannon

Online Editor
Josef Sipkins

Visual Effects
Josh Johnson
William Adashek
Josef Sipkins

Assistant to Producers
Francis Roman

Original Score by
Nathan Halpern
Courtesy of Copticon Music (Ascap)
Robert Pycior: Violin and Viola

“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”
Performed by Hank Williams Sr.
Written by Hank Williams Sr.
Published by Sony/ATV Acuff Rose Music
On behalf of Sony/ATV Music Publishing

"This Is My Country"
Composed by Al Jacobs And Don Raye
Published by Music Sales Shawnee,
A Division of Tomcat Music, Inc. (Ascap)
Used by permission of Warock Corp. (Ascap)

"God Bless America”
Written by Irving Berlin
Published by Irving Berlin Music Company
(Administered by Williamson Music, An Imagem Company)

"Your Cheating Heart"
Performed by Hank Williams Sr.
Written by Hank Williams Sr.
Published by Sony/Atv Acuff Rose Music
On Behalf of Sony/Atv Music Publishing
Courtesy of Mercury Records Nashville
Under license from Universal Music Enterprises

“Music Is a Lot Like Jazz”
Performed by Stephen Patterson
Written by Stephen Patterson
Courtesy of the artist

"Black Flies"
Performed by Ben Howard
Written by Ben Howard
Published by WB Music Corp. (Ascap)
O/B/O Warner/Chappell Music Publishing Ltd.
Courtesy of Universal Records Nashville
Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
The Droz Family
The Halpern Family
The Hession and Cantera Families
The Jewell, West, Hood, and Simental Families
The Keyes Family
The Nunn Family
The Palermo/Routh Family
The Pastreich Family
The Regas Family
The Tragos Family

Dedicated in Memory of Elizabeth Ann Jewell

Fiscal Sponsorship
International Documentary Association

Production Assistance Provided by
Film Independent
Independent Filmmaker Project

Funding provided by
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program
The Cinereach Project at The Sundance Institute
International Documentary Association Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund
The Pacific Pioneer Fund
And others. A complete list available from PBS.

This program was produced by Dinky Pictures, LLC, which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2013 Dinky Pictures, LLC All rights reserved.

Is the American Dream alive for everyone, or did some of that dream die long ago? What does the American Dream mean today? Do you think small towns like Rich Hill can make a comeback?


  • 2014 Sundance Film Festival
    U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary
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Is the American Dream alive for everyone, or did some of that dream die long ago? What does the American Dream mean today? Do you think small towns like Rich Hill can make a comeback?