Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Chris Simon & Maureen Gosling of THIS AIN’T NO MOUSE MUSIC! - Western Carolina University, Robinson Film Center, & Union College

From filmmakers Chris Simon and Maureen Gosling of THIS AIN’T NO MOUSE MUSIC!:


We interrupted our Tour to make a brief trip to Austin for SXSW where we joined others from the Les Blank film family to celebrate the opening of A Poem is a Naked Person, a film the late documentarian made 40 years ago on rock star Leon Russell. Maureen spent two years living at Russell’s rural Oklahoma studio compound, working with Blank as an assistant and sound recordist. After Les’ death, his son resurrected the film and miraculously convinced Leon Russell to let it be released. It was an event neither of us could possibly miss. The opening was fabulous, with Leon Russell in attendance, as well as many family and friends, and the celebration lasted – well, too long!

Maureen on stage at SXSW

After 2 hours of sleep, Chris flew back to Atlanta, leaving Maureen to further celebrations, and drove to Cullowhee, NC. What was supposed to be a three hour drive was more like five, but she got there, exhausted, in time. The screening was at Western Carolina University and there were young student filmmakers, as well as musical members of the community. As usual, it was a real pleasure to talk to the folks afterwards.

Chris with some questionable barbecue on the way to Cullowhee

Coffee was very much needed on the five hour drive to WCU!


We made it to Shreveport with little time to spare on Thursday afternoon, enough to briefly check in at the fancy casino hotel. We headed to the impressive Robinson Film Center, where the screening room was set up with chairs, and a hot string band trio performing and singing for people as they arrived. During the screening, we had a delicious dinner across the hall in the classy bistro. The audience loved the film and there turned out to be among them a more than usual number of record collectors, historians and music aficionados. They not only knew a lot about the music in the film, but reminded us of Shreveport’s place in US music history, such as being home to the famous Louisiana Hayride and the legendary Leadbelly. Archivist and historian Chris Brown played a musical sample for the audience from a 78 recording of a local musician whom Arhoolie Records’ artist Black Ace gave credit for his slide guitar style. Post screening, we had drinks with Chris, his wife, Board of Directors member Jeff Hendricks and other music aficionados. It was nice to have the time to chat at length. We were sorry not to have time to make a pilgrimage to Leadbelly’s grave, but next time.

Trio playing as people arrived

Robinson Film Center's electronic billboard

Film Reel Art

Drinks with Chris Brown, Jeff Hendricks, and others


Up and out early next morning, we flew to Knoxville, TN, where we rented a car to drive north into Kentucky to Barbourville for our last screening of the Tour. Finding our way to the correct highway from the Knoxville airport and then finding the airport again later proved to be one of the most stressful parts of our trip – thank God for GPS! Chris swore off paper maps after that one. But otherwise it was a nice, partly foggy drive to Barbourville, where the screening was held at Union College. The venue, once again, was a re-purposed church hall that housed a theatre and portable movie screen. We were pleased at the almost full house, made up of many students who’d been encouraged by their instructors to show up. That meant more young folks. During the screening, the new local and very popular Italian restaurant kindly squeezed us in, though we had no reservation (plus it was Saturday night) and we discovered that Barbourville is “dry”, so we couldn’t bring in our celebratory bottle of wine. Back at the theater, the Q & A was hosted by Union College professors and folklorists Hugo Freund and Susan Isaacs. They lead the questions and offered their own, making it a pleasingly in-depth experience for the audience who stayed till the very end. Our hosts provided treats for all afterwards. We were very satisfied with the ending of our wonderful Southern Circuit Tour. Chris headed home the next morning and Maureen went on for an overnight trip to nearby Harlan, KY, where she had lived for four years as a child.

Folklorists Hugo Fruend (left) and Susan Isaacs (right) with Chris and Maureen (middle)
Maureen with Daniel Boone


We really congratulate the hosts in each town we visited for their hard work in promoting the arts and keeping the arts vibrant in their communities. It’s clear that the Southern Circuit Tour is a great contribution to that. We were very impressed with the win-win that the Tour affords both us as filmmakers and the community audiences we were able to share our film with. An exhausting, but richly rewarding experience! Long live South Arts!

Danielle Beverly from Old South visits Auburn University

From filmmaker Danielle Beverly:

Auburn, AL was my second stop with Old South on The Southern Circuit. I nearly didn't make the screening on time when I discovered I'd reserved a car at the Columbia SC airport, and not the Columbus GA airport. Doh!

"I'm sorry Ma'am we don't have any cars. Completely sold out," was the response I got from each of the apologetic rental agencies. Some quick producing got me into a cab and across the state line to the Jule Collins Museum of Fine Art on the campus of Auburn University

I was met by "Super Docent" Virginia Transue. She was working an afternoon chamber music event in the atrium, a series she is deeply involved with there. Virginia was to be my host and liaison. She and I hit off immediately. As the concert was ending I did my tech check in the theatre, and then Virginia drove us the mile to her home to have  a lovely egg salad sandwich lunch before the screening.

We talked about music, politics, Southern identities, and super computers. She shared the press clipping she'd saved, promoting Old South. We did some bird-watching - an energetic woodpecker was the highlight. She told me about her departed husband Bill, who was clearly the love of her life for over 45 years - a mathematician from French ancestry, who fell in love with the plucky young Virginia, from rural Louisiana.

As we got ready to drive back to the museum the sky had darkened. Thankfully, a torrential late afternoon rain still did not keep the audience away. Students arrived soaking wet, but ready to watch the film.

Afterwards a great Q&A with questions about fraternities and the eerie timeliness of Old South's release, why and how I made the film, and a reflection from a man who'd lived in Athens, GA and knew the neighborhood in the film. (Each screening seems to have at least one former Athens resident).

The conversation continued in the museum's cafe as a jazz band played in the atrium. Virginia's offered this sage observation on life in the South, "Alabama is frustrating often, discouraging often, but it is never boring".

As we drove home, Virginia's eagle eye spotted a coyote loping across the road. We stopped the car and watched it as it watched us. Then it turned and disappeared into the woods. A beautiful way to end the night.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Danielle Beverly from Old South visits Indie Memphis

Filmmaker Danielle Beverly of Old South:

My first stop on The Southern Circuit with Old South was Memphis TN. A dear pal paired me with her Aunt Bess to host me in her Southern memorabilia-filled home. I walked in and was greeted by Monique LeMannequin. Monique and I set a spell and I told her that I was excited to screen that evening hosted by the local film society Indie Memphis. Monique was a great listener, but didn't say much.

Aunt Bess was a gas. After ferrying me to the theatre to do a tech check with great Blu Ray projection at Malco's Studio on the Square, we then hit the town.

Flashback for vintage clothes, the zoo to see the pandas, The Stax Museum, and great food at a Mexican tapas joint across the street.

Stax was a personal mecca, as I worked for years in a record store. This was a meaningful opportunity to learn more about this important place, and the people who made its history, including Otis Redding who left us so young, but with an incredible catalog of music to enjoy forever.

The screening itself was wonderful. A goodly sized audience who had great shares and questions. We continued the conversation out in the lobby. One of my favorite reflections so far from the tour came from a man who offered his one sentence insight: "From kudzu to can do!" Might have to use that as the official logline. Or make t-shirts!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Chris Simon and Maureen Gosling of THIS AIN’T NO MOUSE MUSIC! - Madison-Cultural Center, The City of Hapeville, & The Tennessee Valley Art Association

From filmmakers Chris Simon and Maureen Gosling of THIS AIN’T NO MOUSE MUSIC!:

According to weather reports, we expected non-stop rain to greet us in Georgia and Alabama, but we met with just gray skies and pleasantly cool weather. We launched our Southern Circuit Tour for THIS AIN’T NO MOUSE MUSIC! after lunch in Atlanta with Teresa Hollingsworth at the appropriately folk art-filled restaurant R Thomas. The first stop of our Tour was just an hour away in the historic town of Madison. The screening was held in the beautiful and carefully preserved heritage grade school that now serves as the Madison-Cultural Center. We were particularly impressed with the theater. The Q & A needed no prompting, as people peppered us with questions after the film. Many of them stuck around for the reception after.

Madison-Morgan Cultural Center
Maureen at Madison-Morgan Cultural Center
Southern Circuit THIS AIN'T NO MOUSE MUSIC! Poster in Madison
Madison Theatre

Stop Two was Hapeville, GA, just an hour back down the road, a town whose economy serves the huge Atlanta airport nearby. The screening venue was a re-purposed charming white wooden church. A couple of local restaurants provided snacks and wine before the film. One woman walked in wearing an Arhoolie hoodie. A man told us he’d spent probably $1000 at Chris Strachwitz’ Down Home Music store back in El Cerrito, CA. By the end of the reception, the place was packed and required extra chairs to accommodate the very diverse audience. We were met afterwards by a standing ovation. Regulars kept saying it was the best film they’d seen and the first time they’d witnessed a standing ovation at one of their screenings. Needless to say we were delighted. A lot of people bought the DVD, as well. We got a downpour of rain that night, but it didn’t last too long.

Church in Hapeville
Audience at Hapeville
Audience members wearing Arhoolie hoodie
Hapeville audience members

Next day we drove four hours to the town of Sheffield, AL, right next door to both Tuscumbia, the birthplace of Helen Keller, and Muscle Shoals, the site of the legendary Fame and Muscle Shoals Sounds recording studios. We visited both before the screening at the beautifully restored Ritz Theater in downtown Sheffield. The hors d’hoevres at the reception were especially delicious. There was time to have good conversations with folks before the film. The BluRay looked particularly good on their nice big screen. The theater board members commented that even though some of their crowds have been small, the Southern Circuit Tour films have had a big impact on their audiences.

Helen Keller Water Pump
Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller
Fame Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals
Maureen outside Muscle Shoals Sounds
Chris finds a Southern Circuit Poster
Maureen outside the Ritz Theatre
Sound check at Ritz Theatre

Friday, March 13, 2015

Yvonne Welbon of The New Black - East Tennessee State University, Indie Memphis, and Auburn University

From producer Yvonne Welbon of The New Black:

Working with a small team I oversee The New Black’s Empowering Equality outreach and engagement campaign focused primarily on LGBT, faith and African-American communities. In collaboration with our partner organizations (e.g., Human Rights Campaign, ACLU, Gay-Straight Alliance Network), our national campaign launched in 2013 with a number of initiatives and piloted a series of activities geared toward fostering dialogue, bridge-building and inspiring action. We have focused on three key areas as part of an overarching public education effort. They included 1) Faithbased Initiatives; 2) Institutional and Organizational Development; and 3) Grassroots Organizing encompassing political and legislative advocacy and increasing media visibility. The goals of Southern Circuit Tour align with many of our goals, including our strong desire to reach our goals with communities in the South.

East Tennessee State University 

The first stop on my tour was the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at East Tennessee State University (ETSU). With The New Black Empowering Equality campaign, our goal is to support the development of diversity and inclusion practices within colleges, universities, corporations, and nonprofit organizations committed to developing and sustaining diverse, inclusive environments.

Working with the fabulous ETSU team that included Associate Dean Anita DeAngelis, Assistant Director Heidi Ehle and RTVF Director Shara Lange I experienced a full day of activities that included a classroom visit, small group critiques, a faculty/staff dinner, the screening of the film and a reception. The team at ETSU garnered quite a bit of press for the event. The film screening was written about in East Tennessean, A! Magazine, The Kingsport Times-News, and Johnson
City Press.

Yvonne Welbon presenting a case study of The New Black to Professor Tammy Hayes RTVF Writing Class. 

Professor Tammy Hayes RTVF Writing Class

Professor Shara Lange arranged a small group critique session with students

Post screening Q & A

The Reception
Indie Memphis

The New Black screened at Malco Studio on the Square in Memphis. The screening attracted a crowd that included members of OutLaw 901, the #1 LGBT Guide to Memphis TN. Members from Cathedral of Praise Church of Memphis decided to bring their Wednesday night Bible Study to the screening. Overall the audience mix helped to create an amazing post screening discussion moderated by Whitney, the Founder of OutLaw 901.

New Black Producer, Yvonne Welbon with members of Cathedral of Praise Church of Memphis
Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University 

My last stop on the Southern Circuit Tour was the beautiful Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University. The screening was open to the public and included students and community members. The audience Q& A focused on topics that ranged from Alabama’s stance on Marriage Equality to the many issues addressed in the film. One young woman in the audience said that the film allowed her to think deeply about the issues in the film and had moved her to shift her position to one that was more open to acceptance. The Q& A moved from the theater to the atrium where we
enjoyed live jazz , good food and great conversation.

Producer, Yvonne Welbon; Museum Curator of Education, Scott Bishop; Audience members Kirk Swiss and Virginia E. O'Leary, Ph.D.; Professor Emerita, Auburn University

Monday, March 09, 2015

Yoruba Richen of The New Black - Oxford College, Presbyterian College, and Creative City Collaborative

From filmmaker Yoruba Richen of The New Black:

Creative City Collaborative Screening
I was super excited to hit the south with my documentary The New Black. Though we have had screenings in the region, this would be the first time I was able to be there and participate in Q and As. The film tackles some pretty hot button issues (race, sexuality, religion) and I was very curious to see how folks in the south would engage with it.

The first stop was Oxford College it Georgia. It was probably the coldest day of the year - but that didn't prevent a packed house for the screening, followed by a really good discussion afterward. The next morning I had breakfast with the Black Student Association and we talked about many issues that the film brought up, including the intersection of being black and LGBTQ, to need for more African-American filmmakers out there telling our own stories, from our own perspectives. I then got on the road and drove to Clinton SC. It was a beautiful drive through the wintry back roads, and I enjoyed the peacefulness and quiet solitude - very different from my New York City life. In Clinton, I screened at Presbyterian College and again the cold weather didn't stop folks from coming out. It was great talking with the students about the role of religion in their lives and how that affected their views on marriage equality. What is interesting is how much folks are engaging in this issue all around the country and how the conversations are similar despite the differences in policy in each state. Next was Creative City Collaborative in Pompano Beach FL. The space was beautiful and the crowd energetic. It was amazing timing to be screening in the south as Alabama was grappling with the recent court order to allow same-sex marriage. This made for rich discussions in each of the venues and I'm so thankful that I got this opportunity 

Friday, February 27, 2015

March's Film's and Filmmakers

This month we welcome The Starfish Throwers, Old South, and This Ain't No Mouse Music! Find out more about these films below and check out the webpage to stay up-to-date with the entire lineup for the 2014-2015 Southern Circuit Film Schedule.

Jesse Roesler is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker whose work has been screened internationally in venues such as the SXSW Film Festival and on Current TV. Jesse’s approach to filmmaking is best described as ‘cinematic authenticity.’ By fusing narrative cinematic technique with the authenticity found in documentary-style filmmaking, his work blurs the lines between fiction and non-fiction by capturing the truth in a conceptually thoughtful manner

As Impact Producer for The Starfish Throwers, Pete Tedrow helped manage the Kickstarter campaign to put the finishing touches on the film, coordinates distribution, handles outreach to community partners around the globe, develops social media strategy, and handles press communications. A freelance writer and educator, Pete holds a BA in English from Macalester College and an MFA in Writing from Hamline University. He also has extensive film festival experience, having worked on staff with the Sundance, Tribeca, and the Minneapolis St. Paul International; and volunteered with Telluride, Toronto International, and Sound Unseen.

Worlds apart, a five-star chef, a twelve year-old girl, and a retired school teacher discover how their The Starfish Throwers tells tale of these remarkable individuals and the unexpected challenges they face. Despite being constantly reminded that hunger is far too big for one person to solve, they persevere and see their impact ripple further than their individual actions
individual efforts to feed the poor ignite a movement in the fight against hunger. Award-winning chef Narayanan Krishnan, fighting against the caste system in India, quits his job to begin a life of cooking and hand-delivering fresh meals to hundreds of people in his hometown. Katie Stagliano’s planting of a single cabbage seedling when she was nine years old blossoms into Katie’s Krops, a non-profit with 73 gardens dedicated to ending hunger. Retired middle school teacher Allan Law battles personal health issues as he hand-delivers more than a thousand sandwiches nightly to the hungry in Minneapolis.


March 4: Clemson University, Clemson, SC
March 15: Winder Cultural Arts Center, Winder, GA
March 17: Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, GA
March 19: Wallace State Community College, Hanceville, AL

Danielle Beverly makes documentaries, often filming and recording sound as a solo filmmaker in the field. In 2014 she was awarded a BAVC National MediaMaker Fellowship for Old South. Beverly was Field Producer for Rebirth over its ten-year production. Her first feature Learning to Swallow premiered at Silverdocs and toured with Southern Circuit in 2005. Beverly is a Nohl Artists Fellowship, a Flaherty Seminar Fellowship and has received grants from the Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media, the Lucius & Eva Eastman Fund, NYSCA and the Puffin Foundation. She also teaches documentary filmmaking (most recently at Marquette University and The University of Notre Dame) and works as a documentary cameraperson.

When the Kappa Alpha (KA), the most elite of the white fraternities at the University of Georgia, buys and demolishes houses on one block in a historic African American neighborhood, the black community becomes agitated. For the blacks, the KA symbolizes the old south - an annual antebellum parade, the flying of the Confederate flag, and loud parties with beer bottles littering the neighborhood.

The arrival of the KA galvanizes Hope, a 30-year old African American woman. Hope grew up in the neighborhood. The lot that the KA purchased contains the home that she grew up in, that has housed her grandparents and great grandparents, and that her physician mother still lives in. Hope begins to organize her neighbors to fight for historical designation, with the goal of slowing, if not thwarting the path of gentrification of the community.

Yet, as in many Southern towns, centuries of racism in this community have created a thorny co-existence between blacks and whites, poor and wealthy. Thus the question viewers are left with: can change truly happen? Or do we simply keep our biases behind closed doors? Old South will open dialogue, revealing that there are often no easy solutions.


March 11: Indie Memphis, Memphis, TN
March 12: Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Arts, Auburn University, Auburn, AL
March 14: Creative City Collaborative, Pompano Beach, FL
March 16: East Tennessee State University, Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, Johnson City, TN
March 18: Oxford College of Emory University, Oxford, GA
March 19: Presbyterian College, Clinton, SC

Director and Producers Chris Simon and Maureen Gosling met over thirty years ago while working with world-renowned documentarian Les Blank. After successful collaborations with Blank over 20 years, Simon and Gosling pursued their own projects. Gosling directed and produced Blossoms of Fire a feature documentary on the Isthmus Zapotecs of southern Oaxaca. Simon produced and directed four independent documentaries including the award-winning Down an Old Road and My Canyonlands. Gosling and Simon re-united for This Ain’t No Mouse Music!  because of their love of music and cultures that Chris Strachwitz brought to the forefront to audiences around the world – and to share the vision of their longtime friend and colleague.

Roots music icon Chris Strachwitz is a detective of sounds, an archaeologist of deep American music, the antithesis of the corporate ‘mouse music’ that dominates the American ear. Born a German count, Strachwitz fled his homeland after WWII at 16. In the United States he discovered, and shared, a musical landscape that most Americans missed. For the last fifty years, he has carried his tape recorder from sharecrop shacks to roadside honkytonks, from cantina dives to wild Blues clubs. His recordings on his independent label, Arhoolie Records, introduced Cajun music from Louisiana, Tex-Mex from Texas, and Blues from the country into the living rooms of the world. These recordings revolutionized the sound of music around the world. In This Ain’t No Mouse Music! filmmakers Chris Simon and Maureen Gosling join Strachwitz for a hip-shaking stomp from New Orleans to Texas, Cajun country to Appalachia, as he continues his passionate quest for the musical soul of America. Features: Chris Strachwitz, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, Flaco Jimenez, Michael Doucet, Richard Thompson, Santiago Jimenez, Jr., The Pine Leaf Boys, the Treme Brass Band, No Speed Limit, and others.


March 12: Madison-Morgan Cultural Center Madison GA
March 13: City of Hapeville Hapeville GA
March 14: The Tennessee Valley Art Association/Ritz Theatre Sheffield AL
March 17: Western Carolina University Cullowhee NC
March 19: Robinson Film Center Shreveport LA
March 20: Union College Barbourville KY

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cynthia Hill from Private Violence - Madison-Morgan Cultural Center & City of Hapeville

From Cynthia Hill of Private Violence:

As a North Carolinian, I always feel pretty welcome in Georgia. In fact, my Southern Circuit tour screenings there this month allowed me to combine two of my greatest passions: film and food. As the director of “A Chef’s Life” on PBS, I had to make two extra stops for Georgia eats based on recommendations from Chef Vivian Howard (see photos on twitter @docusouth). But this trip was about showing Private Violence and engaging communities in conversation about a very complex societal problem - domestic violence. I was renewed and energized by the screenings in Madison and Hapeville, and both locales were warm and welcoming. For me, the unique part of these particular screening events was the bonus of seeing the domestic violence advocacy community come out and have a chance to share what they do with their community members. I think many people could go their whole life without even knowing that domestic violence advocates are out there fighting every day. I got to know this reality very well while making the film.

What also gets me every time I screen Private Violence is how engaged people are, especially once that light bulb goes off - that moment when they realize that the “Why didn’t she just leave?” mentality is not where to start unpacking this issue. And, when that happens, and people feel safe to ask questions, they want to know what they can do, how they can help, where we can go from here. They want to know how to volunteer in their local community. It’s not just batterers who need to change – it is our culture, our justice system. They want to hear perspective on why abusers aren’t held accountable (answer: because they CAN and DO get away with this). But I believe this can change. And I want others to believe that, and work towards it, as well. As one attendee said, “It was truly amazing to see Deanna transform in this film. It was hard to watch, but it is something we all need to watch. She became a victor.” Thank you, South Arts, for making these conversations possible and thanks to everyone who came out in Georgia.

Cynthia Hill, director, Private Violence