The fading American Dream

Although not heard about often, suburban poverty is a real thing.

Since 2000, it has skyrocketed up to 64 percent, putting pressure on the entire family, including the kids. The new documentary Rich Hill is a story all too familiar across America. The film follows three teens, ignored by a world that glorifies the haves over the have-nots. They’re tackling adult problems when they’re still barely teenagers who still believe their time will come.

Documentarian Tracey Droz Jewell and film subject, Andrew Jewell sat down with Krystal to discuss the reality for many Americans today.

The Cycle, 7/31/14, 12:42 PM ET

Small towns, big problems

A compelling new documentary tells the story many Americans are facing across America.

Krystal Ball:  Andrew what was it like to watch your family and your life on film?

Andrew: Whenever I first saw the film I tried to envision it as though, it wasn’t my family.  I just wanted to see it from another person’s perspective.  And honestly I think a lot of people can learn a lot from this film.  Not every kid out there is a trust fun baby. Or gets things handed or gets everything handed to them and a lot of them have to work. Most people actually, most kids have to work and I just happen to be one of them.

Krystal Ball: One of the hardest parts of watching this film is realizing how much the deck really is stacked against these young boys, can you speak to that?

Tracey: Yeah and all the kids who don’t have movies made about them, I mean I feel like in some ways there is a whole bunch of folks that will be looking out for Andrew.  And that makes a different it’s a kind of social capitol that he now has that he wouldn’t have had otherwise and so many kids don’t have. So that, when there’s a mistake or misstep or an eviction, that can really have catastrophic impact.

Krystal Ball: You talked about how you didn’t want anyone to think badly of your family, do you feel like a lot of America judges, is it confined to just your town or is it widespread?

Andrew: I honestly know that it’s everywhere. I’ve seen it daily. I’ve been to a lot of places and I’ve seen a lot of new things. And I’ve met a lot of families, a lot just like mine, and it’s hard because you see people like that and you wonder-some people are always angry, I was angry for a while- you have to wonder. What’s going on in their lives? It’s striking to me, it’s striking.

Krystal Ball: Tracey what is the take back you want people to get from this film?

Tracey: Yeah it’s not any specific legislation that needs to be passed. We hope that audiences will have empathy and with that empathy will be moved to action. We have an engagement campaign and we’re working with non-profits and we’re excited that the Department of Education is screening this film next week. And policy makers will have insight into what it’s like for families like Andrew’s that are struggling. And it really isn’t going to take just raising the minimum wage or not doing away with food assistance, it’s a lot. It’s a complex issue but I do hope this film will be a part of the conversation and we continue to do good work and make the film available to organizations who want to use it.

Krystal Ball: Andrew do you have anything else you want to say?

Andrew: Earlier you asked what I think the govermnet could do to help families like mine and I think it wouldn’t necessarily be the government’s decision but I think I would feel really good if all the small towns and their communities would help each other and everything would start going better. I mean if everybody all over the United States of America helped each other instead of trying to put each other off, I’m fairly certain America would be a much better of a place and we wouldn’t have situations like these. 

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The fading American Dream