Documentary, Super 16mm, stereo, color, 80’

Homemade Hillbilly Jam

Hillbillies haven’t died off; they’ve simply become neo-hillbillies. Three families of musicians in the Ozark Mountains of Southwestern Missouri give new meaning to the word “hillbilly.” Float down the backwaters, soak up some old time religion, savor a washboard duel, and bask in the neon lights of the pseudo-hillbilly showtown Branson. Lean back and merge into hillbilliness.


Although I am not directly from the Ozarks area, I spent my early childhood in nearby Kansas, and took many trips to Branson and the Ozarks. Since my parents relocated to Branson ten years ago, I have had numerous opportunities to rediscover the region, which also led to the shooting of my last film HEAVEN ON EARTH there. After immersing in the flashy lights of Branson, I became curious about the surrounding areas, which Branson seems to be slowly devouring. I also became intrigued by the close-knit family structures, and what I had always perceived as a clichéd image of so-called traditional values. Although HOMEMADE HILLBILLY JAM is clearly Mark’s story, the film is a vehicle for exploring a question which fascinates me more and more the longer I live outside the U.S.: What makes America so strong? The answer we found while shooting appears to have little to do with military might or the exaggerated displays of patriotism in Branson. Perhaps it is as radical as it is simple: God, family, love of the land – and in the case of our protagonists – music. In an increasingly complex, globalized world, where modern day communication is isolating individuals behind their computers, cell phones, and various gadgets rather than bringing them together, where transience is the norm, and where intact families have fallen out of fashion, the Bilyeus and Mabes are managing to transcend their very different world views and political and religious beliefs and keep three generations together in the Ozarks. Watching grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins singing together and playing five guitars and washboard after a hearty Thanksgiving meal is both oddly inspiring and anachronistic – like witnessing the last stand of a family on the brink of extinction.

Prize of the State Film Service Rheinland-Pfalz at the 22nd Video/Filmtage, Koblenz, Germany, Nov. 2005

“… another quirky insight into an America that most Americans would barely recognize.” – Stephen Dalton, The Times (London)

“… rich journey through a cultural legacy.” – Jonny Leahan, Indiewire

“…as a film that documents, reveals and clarifies misconceptions through heart-felt portraits, Homemade Hillbilly Jam passes the test of a great documentary.” – Mike Armitage, Chart Attack (Toronto)

“Minnich (with co-writer and editor Matt Sweetwood) constructs a unifying fabric of visual beauty with a rich mix of natural sounds that immerses us  in a locale that for many will seem as familiar and yet as distant as the sound of the faraway train whistle that ends the film.” – Milton Tabbot, Indielink

“…the film depicts religion and family and the Ozarks in the most sympathetic, and least hokey way imaginable. Thank you, thank you, thank you.” – Paul Sturtz, Director, True/False Film Festival, Columbia, Missouri

“…vibrant, well-shot doc …” (4 of 5 stars) – Jason Anderson, Eye Weekly, Toronto

“… Minnich’s beautifully shot film celebrates Missouri’s Ozark countryside and the way music can transcend confilicting attitudes, to bring and hold generations together …” – Friends of American Old Time Music & Dance

“…an excellent documentary film …” – Dee Hallett, British Bluegrass Association

  • HotDocs, Toronto, Canada, April 2005 (world premiere)
  • Sheffield International Documentary Festival, UK, Oct. 05 (European premiere)
  • Hot Springs Doc. Film Festival, Hot Springs, Arkansas, Oct. 2005 (Opening-Night-Film; U.S. Premiere)
  • Independents Night, Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center, Nov. 2005
  • Gene Siskel Film Center, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Dec. 2005
  • Reel Music Fest, NW Film Center, Portland, Jan. 2006
  • Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Missoula, Feb. 2006
  • True/False Film Festival, Columbia, Feb. 2006 (Closing Night Film)
  • Sheffield International Documentary Festival on Tour, Feb. – March 2006
  • Cleveland International Film Festival, March 2006
  • RiverRun International Film Festival, March 2006
  • Norwegian Documentary Film Festival, April 2006
  • Atlanta International Documentary Film Festival, April 2006
  • USA Film Festival in Dallas, Texas, April 2006
  • Trenton Film Festival, New Jersey, May 2006
  • Camden International Film Festival, Maine, Sept. 2006
  • Provinziale – Filmfest Eberswalde, Oct. 2009

YLE Teema, Finland (2006)

Director & Writer:
Rick Minnich
Co-Writer: Matt Sweetwood
Cinematography: Axel Schneppat
Sound: Raimund von Scheibner
Sound Design: Kai Schormann, Hans Schumann
Editors: Matt Sweetwood, Salar Ghazi, Nelia Székely
Producer: Olaf Jacobs, Hoferichter & Jacobs GmbH (Berlin)