{ subscribe_url:'//blogs.loc.gov/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/folklife.php' }

Reel Folk: Cultural Explorations on Film Screening and Discussion Event

"Filming Cattle Drive" by Carl Fleischauer (1979). This image of William Smock is part of the Paradise Valley Folklife Project Collection (AFC 1991/021) at the American Folklife Center.

“Filming Cattle Drive” by Carl Fleischauer (1979). This image of William Smock is part of the Paradise Valley Folklife Project Collection (AFC 1991/021) at the American Folklife Center.

On September 29th and 30th, 2017, the Library of Congress is hosting “Reel Folk: Cultural Explorations on Film,” a series of free film screenings and discussions organized by the American Folklife Center. The films feature fascinating explorations of traditional culture in the U.S., focused particularly on cultural communities, traditional artists and their cultural practices in the Mid-Atlantic region. Several of the films’ directors and producers will be present to lead discussions on the films’ diverse ethnographic subjects, as well as the roles audiovisual documentation plays in understanding and portraying folklife and shared cultural experiences.

So, what’s playing?

Reel Folk kicks off at 7pm on Friday, September 29 in the Library’s Pickford Theater with a screening of “The Big Bang,” originally aired on PBS as episodes 1& 2 of American Epic. Producer/writer, Allison McGourty, and director, Bernard McMahon, will be on hand to discuss the film and answer audience questions. The PBS American Epic series chronicles the period from the 1920s through the 1940s when collectors for both commercial record companies and public institutions like the Library sought and recorded traditional American roots music, including ballad singers in the Appalachians, blues guitarists in the Mississippi Delta, gospel preachers across the south, Cajun fiddlers in Louisiana, Tejano groups from the Texas-Mexico border, Native American drummers, and Hawaiian musicians on the big island. Its second episode, “Blood and Soil,” contains extraordinary footage from the AFC’s collections, including a color clip of GRAMMY-winner Honeyboy Edwards shot for the Library by Alan Lomax in 1942.

Executive producers of PBS’ American Epic are Jack White, T Bone Burnett, and Robert Redford, all of whom appear in the series. It has won multiple awards, and is nominated for a 2017 EMMY Award. It could be that Allison McGourty and Bernard McMahon will be fresh off an EMMY win by the time they present “The Big Bang” at the Library!

On Saturday, September 30th, the event continues from 11:00am to 5pm in the Pickford Theater. The second day is devoted to the screening of eight documentary films on folk and traditional culture in the Mid-Atlantic region, the majority of which are presented by their filmmakers and producers (see the full schedule and descriptions here). Films include Muskrat Lovely, presented by filmmaker, Amy Nicholson, and featured champion muskrat skinner, Rhonda Aaron; If These Knishes Could Talk: The Story of the New York Accent, with commentary from filmmaker, Heather Quinlan; Let’s Get the Rhythm, with its co-producers, Steve Zeitlin and Irene Chagall; and Adelante, with filmmaker Noam Osband. There will also be several short ethnographic films from West Virginia and Maryland. In the coming weeks, be sure to check out Folklife Today for guest posts by and interviews with filmmakers and producers participating in Reel Folk!

Tracking Lomax’s 1952-53 Spain trip

Ascensión Mazuela-Anguita is the current scholar in the Jon B. Lovelace Fellowship for the Study of the Alan Lomax Collection, and has been using her time at the Library of Congress to explore materials held at the AFC related to Lomax’s 1952–53 field recording trip to Spain. In this recent guest post on the Kluge […]

Billy Bragg, Skiffle Historian and Singer, Visits the Library July 21

This blog post about the singer-songwriter Billy Bragg is part of a series called “Hidden Folklorists,” which examines the folklore work of surprising people, including people better known for other pursuits. Billy Bragg will be here for a book talk, July 21 at 7:00 pm in the Mumford Room of the James Madison Memorial Building. […]

“I Didn’t Done the Crime”: Stavin’ Chain’s “Batson” and the Batson Case

Note: This is the third in a series of posts about the murder ballad “Batson.” This one discusses the version of the ballad performed by Wilson Jones, aka “Stavin’ Chain,” in light of the real-life Batson case. In previous blog posts about the murder ballad “Batson,” I looked at early versions collected by Robert Winslow […]

“No One Can Ever Forget It”: Stavin’ Chain’s Performance of “Batson”

Note: This is the second in a series of posts about the murder ballad “Batson.” This one discusses the performance recorded by John A. and Alan Lomax from a trio of musicians including Wilson Jones, a.k.a. Stavin’ Chain, in 1934. A little while back, I presented for the first time anywhere a version of the […]

“When I First Got Ready For the War,” a Song of World War I

This is one of two articles, each focusing on one ethnographic recording of an African American song of World War I. To read the article about “Trench Blues” select here. African Americans left to serve in World War I, beginning one hundred years ago in June 1917, landing in France on June 25. They had […]

“Oh, Mama”: A Mother’s Love and the Murder Ballad “Batson”

Note: This is the first in a series of posts about the murder ballad “Batson.” This one discusses previously unpublished versions of the song from manuscript collections at AFC. Introduction The ballad “Batson,” collected by John and Alan Lomax from Wilson Jones (whose nickname was “Stavin’ Chain”) and two accompanists, has long been a well-known […]

Beyoncé, Paul Bowles, and More: Current GRAMMY Nominees with AFC Connections on the Library of Congress Blog

Note: This is just a teaser for a fuller post over at the Library of Congress Blog. Read the full story there! This year the GRAMMY awards promise to be exciting for music fans everywhere, but especially fans of the American Folklife Center.  At least four of the nominees have connections to the AFC archive: […]

Nearly 300,000 Lomax documents now accessible online

This is a guest post by the American Folklife Center’s Alan Lomax curator Todd Harvey. Fans of folk music fire up your browsers! The second—and largest—phase of the Lomax family papers has just gone online at this link. This set of manuscripts joins ca. 25,000 items that went online last fall. Researchers now have access to nearly […]

Jon B. Lovelace Fellowship for the Study of the Alan Lomax Collection

The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress invites qualified scholars to apply for a post-doctoral fellowship for advanced research based on the Alan Lomax Collection. The Lovelace Fellowship, established in 2015 for the study of the Alan Lomax Collection, pays tribute to the 60-year friendship between philanthropist Jon B. Lovelace and James […]