Stranger With A Camera
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|Stranger With A Camera|
|Directed by||Elizabeth Barret|
|Produced by||Elizabeth Barret, Judi Jennings|
|Written by||Fenton Johnson|
|Editing by||Lucy Massie Phenix|
|Release date(s)||January 2000|
|Running time||61 minutes|
Stranger With A Camera is a 2000 documentary film by director Elizabeth Barret investigating the circumstances surrounding the 1967 death of Hugh O'Connor. Barret, who was born and raised in the region, explores questions concerning public image and the individual's lack of power to define oneself within the American media landscape. By contrasting multiple perspectives from locals and O'Connor's film crew, Barret weaves a tale of a complexly motivated crime with an insightful exploration of how the media affects the communities it chronicles. The film premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival and later aired on the PBS series P.O.V. 
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Scottish Canadian documentary filmmaker O'Connor had been hired to direct a film about the "American Dream" entitled US. In addition to highlighting many of the prospering areas in America, O'Connor chose to document Letcher County in eastern Kentucky. Letcher County is located in a region known as Appalachia, a 2,000,000-square-mile (5,200,000 km2) region that had become a metaphor for all that was wrong with the “American Dream”. President Johnson had declared a War on Poverty in 1964, strongly focused on the Appalachian region.
Reporters, film crews, and television journalists had already been entrenched in Letcher County long before O’Connor arrived. While many of Letcher County’s residents were hopeful the attention would bring change, others were angered and felt exploited by the media's portrayal of their community. Hobart Ison, a local man who rented several properties to Appalachian miners, was one such disgruntled resident. On the final day of his shoot for US, Hugh O'Connor was filming mining families living in shacks rented by Ison. Enraged by their intrusion, Ison threatened the film crew with a .38-calibre Smith & Wesson revolver. He fired several shots, one striking O’Connor in the chest and killing him.
Barret uses her background as both a filmmaker and a member of the community to reevaluate the incident that occurred in 1967. Barrett films testimonies of both O'Connor's film crew and family, along with members of the Jeremiah community, that talk about their struggle with the media in general during Lyndon B. Johnson's "War on Poverty." Stranger with a Camera reflects the issues between social action vs. social embarrassment and the boundaries between media and its subjects. Barret films interviews that discuss the emotions during the War on Poverty, in the less fortunate neighborhoods, while also talking about the emotions of the community after the murder happened. Barret's film helps the audience understand the motives and intentions of the Appalachian people, as well as those of the media and specifically O'Connor's film crew.
Funding Sources 
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the MacArthur Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Southern Humanity Media Fund, Soros Documentary Fund, a Rockefeller Foundation Film/Video Fellowship, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Kentucky Arts Council, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Art.
- 2000 Sundance Film Festival - Nominated, Grand Jury Prize - Documentary
- 2000 International Documentary Association - Nominated, IDA Award - Feature Documentaries
- 2000 San Francisco International Film Festival - Won, Silver Spire, Film & Video - History