Two documentaries produced by the University of Alabama will be screened in Paris, France during October, 2011. The documentaries, originally made for broadcast in Alabama, have both had an impact well beyond the boundaries of the state.
“Richard Johnston: Hill Country Troubadour” will screen as a part of the Raw Sounds Movie Club on October 17th at Le Fanfaron (6 rue de la Main d’Or). The film, which won the Best Alabama Film Award at the 2007 George Lindsey UNA Film Festival, tells the story of a Memphis, Tennessee musician who was performing frequently in Alabama during the time it was produced. Johnston draws his inspiration from a unique style of blues music that comes from north Mississippi’s hill country and the film serves as an introduction to the musician and the style of music. It has been shown across the US, England, and Germany but this screening will be the French premiere.
“Songs Inside The Box” will screen during the Cigar Box Guitare Mini-Festival on October 22nd at Boullion Belge (6 Rue Planchat). The film chronicles an Alabama cigar box guitar festival which attracts participants from across the US. It recently won the Best Feature Length Documentary Award at the 2011 Prometheus Film Festival and portions of the documentary are currently being shown at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles as a part of an exhibit of cigar box guitars. Through “Songs Inside The Box,” the Alabama festival has led to similar festivals around the world and the film will be shown at the first such festival in Paris. It has previously screened in Australia, England, Germany, and across the US.
Both documentaries were directed by Max Shores at the UA Center for Public Television and Radio. The Center was created in 1955 to produce programming for the newly formed Alabama Public Television network of stations covering the state. For the past 20 years the department has focused primarily on the production of single topic documentaries which have shared aspects of life in Alabama and the southeastern US with audiences around the world. In addition to broadcast distribution, CPT&R documentaries have been screened at international film festivals where they have won awards.
The presentation of these two music documentaries within one week in Paris is a coincidence but the stories told by the two films are related. It was through Richard Johnston’s use of cigar box guitars that director Shores learned of the widespread interest in the instruments and the Alabama festival that brings cigar box guitar makers and musicians together.