Rocktown Documentary

Brent Finnegan -- February 1st, 2008

I stumbled upon an interesting blog recently.

Apparently when Leslie Edwards returned to Harrisonburg after being gone for 12 years, she didn’t like what she saw, and decided to make a documentary about it.

From what I can gather, Rocktown: From the Small Farm to the Big Box examines the homogenization of Harrisonburg. According to the blog, it’s a film about “the changes small towns across the U.S. experience as their economies, landscapes, communities & cultures are threatened.” She shot more than 40 interviews with city residents of all ages and backgrounds, “some supportive of the changes, some against.” Three clips from those interviews are up on YouTube.

Edwards writes:

Few areas of the city remain untouched by the combination of factors conspiring to change Harrisonburg: the intense growth of James Madison University, changing from a small, women-only normal school just after the turn of the last century to a student body of more than 17,000 today; the decline of traditional agriculture as the main economic force in the city and the assent of the retail and service industries as the predominant source of jobs; and the complete reshaping of the physical landscape and the local identity and culture precipitated by the twin growth spurts of the university and the retail economy […] Like many small towns across the U.S., Harrisonburg, VA is struggling through rapid development […] the city was starting to take on that bland pallor of a place overrun and homogenized–the local was being pushed out by the multi-national.

Sounds like a thought-provoking labor of love.

I made several attempts to get in touch with Edwards and her filmmaking partner, Brian Oelberg (via email, telephone, and their blog), but have not received a reply yet. If or when they do, I’ll post more information about the film. UPDATE: Leslie has emailed me, and I will post new info soon.

2 Responses to “Rocktown Documentary”

  1. Thanh says:

    I’m interested to get my hands on a copy of this documentary or to view it with people with it becomes available. Please keep us all posted. Thanks!

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