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!