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Critics be damned, I’m watching it anyway

fr serenamovieThere are plenty of Ron Rash fans who have been waiting — and waiting — for “Serena” the movie to come out, and they won’t let all those bad reviews rain on their parade.

Subconsciously, they know every movie reviewer in America can’t be wrong. But in the end, who can resist seeing their hometown depicted on the big screen? So the curious and loyal will bite the bullet and tune in to “Serena,” as an academic exercise if nothing else.

How well does it capture the mountain dialect? Or Appalachian life in the 1920s? Does it follow Rash’s plot line? Does it accurately portray the historical tug-of-war between timber barons and national park proponents?

A ray of hope in the reviews: the costuming is well done at least. 

The historical backdrop for Serena is one of the most pivotal in Southern Appalachia, a brief yet irreparable era that not only took its toll on the Appalachian landscape but forever altered its people and demographics.

“It has epic proportions to it. It is captivating,” said George Frizzell, the lead historian and curator of WCU’s special library collections. For the record, Frizzell was referring to the book’s narrative, not the movie, which he hasn’t seen, yet.

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Last year, the much-acclaimed bestselling novel Serena was assigned as summer reading for every incoming freshman at Western Carolina University, where Rash is a professor of Appalachian Studies.

The timing no doubt seemed clever to the book selection committee, anticipating a frenzy when the movie came out later in the school year, but now it seems the forethought was for naught. 

Nonetheless, Frizzell thought a little context was in order.

He dove into WCU’s special collection archives to piece together an armchair tour of the historical relevance of Serena, and the resulting presentation attracted a house of nearly 500 students and faculty in the fall.

“The goal was to show them that ‘Yes indeed, Ron was able to capture a wonderful portrait and representation of life in this time period,’” Frizzell said. 

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