Thoughts on The Hunger Games from a Resident of District 12

Ok, so I'm clearly not actually a resident of District 12.  I'm not that delusional.  But I did grow up in the area in which it was filmed, a fact that made my viewing of the film a little different from that of your average movie-goer.  There are always times when you read a book or watch a film that you can identify with the location.  Oh hey, they're in the woods.  I grew up in the woods.  Cool.  But something is always off.  The trees are all wrong, the climate is different, or the birds are like nothing you are used to seeing.  As a child with an active imagination who spent more time in the woods reading books and climbing trees than interacting with social peers, I experienced this a lot.  But this film was completely different.

(Photo copyright Lionsgate)
This was my home.  And if there was an apocalyptic event, I have no doubt that the small towns of rural NC, already struggling financially, could very well turn out this way.  We are not miners, but the people of our region spent many generations in factories, often from an age much younger than that which is legal.  In the early part of the 19th century, social reform activists put our area on the list of places to visit as they documented the need for child labor regulations.  The unused buildings that were repurposed for the film were one time employers for many and for me a reflection of how our local economy has struggled.

The landscape used for both District 12 and the arena is one that is deeply familiar to me.  Those mountains are ones that I have climbed.  Those forests are identical to ones that I have explored.  At one point later in the film there is a brief shot of a lake.  I audibly gasped upon seeing it because I knew it as one I had played in as a child.

The movie itself is wonderful.  It sticks to the books for the most part and departs only in places that make for a better film.  The story progresses in ways that are both heartbreaking and realistic, because the motivations of the characters, while not always clear, are the motivations of real people, not that of abstract illustrations.  I did spend a fair amount of time with silent tears, which is not a common experience for me.  But seeing it set in a place that I know, that I love, and that until this point was fairly obscure made the experience that much more poignant.  The people of District 12 are not unlike my own friends and neighbors and even the vaguest possibility that this could happen makes the thematic warnings of The Hunger Games that much more meaningful.

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