Four decades ago, in a Whitesburg, Kentucky storefront that once held a "tire supermarket," Herb E. Smith, a seventeen-year-old member of the Appalachian Film Workshop—Appalshop, for short—learned to work the 16-millimeter Arriflex-S camera.
The Arri weighed twenty pounds and had a battery belt. Though it would be considered cumbersome by modern standards, in 1971 the camera offered its wielder something no other camera did: mobility. Here was a chance to walk the streets of a small coal town and ask people what they thought of the Vietnam War; here was the freedom to trek up steep, lush inclines of Kentucky wilderness to roll footage on an expert dulcimer player.
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