A 1995 documentary directed by Russ Hexter. Hexter passed away in April 1996 on the eve of the film's premier at a Philadelphia independent film festival.
The film centers around the upstate New York town of the movie's title. Nestled in a valley, it appears to be the typical American small town. The residents all know one another. There's a lot of community involvement among the citizens. And the economy of the town centers around the Gorman Metal Works. The company has a glorious history in the town, as a manufacturer of aircraft fuselages and parts during World War II. Recent years have seen the company's fortunes wane as the construction of military aircraft shifted elsewhere. Gorman managed to remain in business as a metal bending facility manufacturing paper clips and staples.
A new high-tech company called API (American Peripheral Imaging) decides to move its operations to the town. Along with administrative offices and a manufacturing facility, the company relocates a large number of employees. Earning salaries considerably higher then most Dadetown natives, they move into newly-built luxury homes, must to the suspicious chagrin of the town's natives.
The new citizens attempt to integrate into the community, opening businesses (a high-end women's clothing store and a cappuccino bar among them) and building a new public playground for the community's children. Despite this, an undercurrent of animosity towards the newcomers bubbles under the surface.
Tensions in the town increase when the Gorman plant lays off a number of workers. Eventually, the company's owners announce that the plant will cease operations completely. API can't take up the slack of the unemployed townspeople since few of them have the necessary high-tech skills. API employees become targets as the displaced workers use them as scapegoats for their problems.
The documentary style of the movie, so familiar in efforts like Roger and Me, draws the viewer into the events and forces an uncomfortable decision. Should you pity the natives of Dadestown, as they suffer through events commonplace in many American towns and cities? Or, should you feel sorry for the API newcomers, people searching for a nice, quiet, safe town in which they can work and live? One might empathize with the anger of the displaced Gorman employees, but even a casual observer knows the API folks aren't to blame for the problems of others.
After nearly two hours of observation, it's important to note that something will happen at the end of the movie that will surprise you and perhaps even shock you. I won't spoil that ending here, though searches for the movie on the web might give some of it away.
What's particularly ironic is that director Hexter died just as the film was to go into general release in the nation's larger independent festivals. (Hexter suffered from Marfan's Syndrome, blamed for the aortic aneurysm that led to his death in 1996). His passing leads to much speculation on what his goal was with Dadetown. The twist at the end of the movie might disturb some who take what they see at face value. Hexter's goal, however, might have been to remind us that what we see is often not reality.
What's also unfortunate is that this movie isn't available on any portable media (videotape or DVD) at this time. The film shows up regularly on the Independent Film Channel's cable network, so those with cable or a satellite dish should watch for it. The film is worth seeking out, if for nothing else then to experience your own reactions to what you see.