Press

Picturing the Southern Sound

Two Music Cultures

2002 Southern Sidebar Series of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival – January 1, 2002

By TOM RANKIN
Director of the Center for Documentary Studies

Documentary portrayals of the American South have long looked to the region’s rich musical traditions. The cradle of American music, the South remains home to a surprising range of music as it continues to nourish revitalizations of older forms and to generate newer hybrids from the region’s diverse musical culture.

Documentary filmmakers have drawn on the region’s musical wealth to place their films solidly in the “authentic” South, to provide stirring melodies to accompany images, and to develop depth of context for the stories they tell. These four films-by filmmakers John Cohen and Pat Mire-take music as their primary subject matter, introducing viewers to local life, tradition, and regional culture as it moves alongside the music of Appalachia and Cajun country. John Cohen, who has spent decades making films about music and playing it as well, was drawn to the traditional music of the southern Appalachians as a young man and made regular trips to the region to play, record, photograph, and film. Pat Mire, a native of south Louisiana, explores his own Cajun culture and region through documentary film.

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