- A National Preserve of Documentary Films about American Roots Cultures
October 6, 2006 6:19 AM   Subscribe has two goals. One is to build a national preserve of hard-to-find documentary films about American folk or roots cultures. The other is to give them renewed life by streaming them on the internet. The films were produced by independent filmmakers in a golden age that began in the 1960s and was made possible by the development first of portable cameras and then capacity for synch sound. Their films focus on the culture, struggles, and arts of unnoticed Americans from many different regions and communities. The filmmakers were driven more by sheer engagement with the people and their traditions than by commercial hopes. Their films have unusual subjects, odd lengths, and talkers who do not speak "broadcast English." Although they won prizes at film festivals, were used in college classes, and occasionally were shown on PBS, they found few outlets in venues like theaters, video shops or commercial television. But they have permanent value... Currently streaming are the films The Land Where the Blues Began , Cajun Country , Jazz Parades: Feet Don't Fail Me Now , Talking Feet: Solo Southern Dance: Buck, Flatfoot and Tap , Ray Lum: Mule Trader and Pizza Pizza Daddy-O , among many others.
posted by y2karl (14 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Another organization dedicated to the preservation of roots culture and music can be found here.
This one covers the Appalachian region and includes really great material.
posted by nofundy at 6:37 AM on October 6, 2006

gah - too much good internets, not enough time - thanks y2karl - from one Karl with a "K" to another...
posted by bokeh at 6:50 AM on October 6, 2006

This is incredibly awesome. Damnit, I'm supposed to be attempting sleep.
posted by loquacious at 6:55 AM on October 6, 2006

wow have just watched cajun country good post
posted by baker dave at 8:04 AM on October 6, 2006

oh man, this is great! Thank you!
posted by Falconetti at 9:01 AM on October 6, 2006

This is just about the end-all, be-all, if you ask me. Only one thing remains on my wish list: "Festival," the Newport Folk Festival film, with the clips of Mimi and Richard Farina playing a set in the rain.
posted by Faze at 9:34 AM on October 6, 2006

Alan Lomax is a hero.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 10:00 AM on October 6, 2006

From Murray Lerner's Festival! :

Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers

Not from Murray Lerner's Festival! :

Mimi & Richard Farina - Pack Up Your Sorrows
posted by y2karl at 12:40 PM on October 6, 2006

Awesome. Thanks.
posted by bardic at 1:40 PM on October 6, 2006

Man, that clip broke my heart. They're just kids! I knew she was gorgeous, but you can see here that Dick was one fine-looking man. And what impressively dignified demeanor both of them had... no mugging or grinning or playing to the camera. Thanks very much for posting that.
posted by Faze at 1:55 PM on October 6, 2006

They're just kids!

This is a feeling I get when I watching anything similar from the era, whether Beatles, Stones or James Brown on Ed Sullivan, for example or Dylan in Don't Look Back or Eat The Document Or I'm looking at John Lee Hooker in the American Folk Blues Festival and thinking he's in his early forties. I got that feeling in the intro to Festival! when the film crew is shooting Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band. You wanted to card all of them. Maria Muldaur looks about 19 and Mel Lyman about 16--and he was about thirty at the time !

By the way, here you can get Festival! from the Seattle public library, as well as all three of the American Folk Blues Festival series or even the Yazoo compilation Times Ain't Like They Used To Be. I'll bet you dollars to donuts you can get them at the library there, too, if you live in any sort of city.

Heck, I didn't even know Festival! was out on DVD until I ran into it in the libray's online catalog search by accident. It was out of circulation for years and there never was a VHS videotape made of it, 'cause of some lawsuit or another, or so I was told.

That is a wonderful movie. One could pick nits with it now, but it's worth a second and third look. There's all the traditional music in it and star performer wise, everyone looks good in it, better than they ever did in any other film--even Peter, Paul and Mary or Joan Baez, fer chris'sakes! Another was the Johnny Cash clip-- easily him in one of his best film performances. Ditto the Staples Singers--man, I loved me some Mavis Staples there. You can see what Dylan saw in her.

And I even spotted Taj Mahal in a crowd shot, smokin' a cigarette and playin' guitar. Missed that in 1967. And those dancers were one of my favorite things then and now.

I bet you can rent it or check it out from the library where you are.
posted by y2karl at 2:50 PM on October 6, 2006

this is really nice. thank you. wonderful collection.
posted by nola at 2:52 PM on October 6, 2006

Alan Lomax is a hero.

I'd certainly agree that his contributions to our knowledge of folk music have been enormous. There are some shady aspects, though, which I must say can make him seem, well, just a little less heroic.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:14 PM on October 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

karl --
I love those cloggers, too. (Saw some cloggers at a county fair recently. They were all in their late 30s and 40s. It was sad. This clip reminds me that dancing is something for young people.)
posted by Faze at 5:54 PM on October 7, 2006

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