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A National Preserve of Documentary Films about American Roots Cultures
streamed with essays about the traditions and filmmaking. The site includes transcriptions, study and teaching guides, suggested readings, and links to related websites.  

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 The Fiddlers of James Bay
 
Selected Films

Films from Appalachia

Documentaries on Folkstreams hint of complexities in this small region stretching down the mountain chains from southern New York to northern Mississippi and Alabama. They show old songs, dances, stories, crafts, styles of life that survived or got adapted to serve in isolated places. But they also show newer artistic, religious, occupational, and political exp...

Films from Appalachia

Documentaries on Folkstreams hint of complexities in this small region stretching down the mountain chains from southern New York to northern Mississippi and Alabama. They show old songs, dances, stories, crafts, styles of life that survived or got adapted to serve in isolated places. But they also show newer artistic, religious, occupational, and political expressions through which people of this region have responded to the stresses of contemporary life.

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Alex Stewart: Cooper
A 1973 film of Alex Stewart, a mountain craftsman from near Sneedville, Tennessee, constructing a churn.  Film includes discussion of the use of non-powered tools and skills handed down in Stewart's family in making wooden containers, such as buckets and barrrels.
Arts & Crafts, Traditional, Work / Appalachia / 1973
11 minutes | Read More | Preview

Appalachian Journey
Alan Lomax travels through the Southern Appalachians investigating the songs, dances, and religious rituals of the descendents of the Scotch-Irish frontiers people who have made the mountains their home for centuries.
Arts & Crafts, Traditional, Dance, Music, Narrative & Verbal Arts, Religion, Aging / Appalachia / 1991
58 minutes | Read More | Preview

The Ballad of Frankie Silver
In 1833 Mrs. Frances Silver was hanged in Morganton, North Carolina, for the ax murder of her husband Charles. Tom Davenport's film explores the case through the singing and stories of Bobby McMillon and the comments of North Carolina Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Gray and others.
Narrative & Verbal Arts, Women / Appalachia / 1996
47 minutes | Read More | Preview

Being A Joines: A Life in the Brushy Mountains
John E. "Frail" Joines was a master tale teller from Wilkes County, N. C., on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains. His hunting tales, stories from World War II, and religious narratives, and the life stories of Frail Joines and his wife Blanche mirror changes that swept away much of the traditional culture of his Appalachian rural community in a single generation and show the character and values with which his family met these circumstances.
Narrative & Verbal Arts, Religion, Women, Work, Agriculture, Family, Rural Life, Sports/Hunting / Appalachia / 1981
55 minutes | Read More | Preview

Blow the Tannery Whistle: A Western North Carolina Story
Playwrite Gary Carden's story of growing up in Sylva, North Carolina.
Narrative & Verbal Arts, Family, Regional / Appalachia / 1994
34 minutes | Read More

Buck Season at Bear Meadows Sunset
A portrait of a hunting camp in northern Appalachia, the men who hunt there, and the traditions they keep alive. The men hunt the old way: they drive the deer. They keep the traditions of their grandfathers' camp alive in the stories they tell and the way they hunt.
Sports/Hunting / Appalachia / 1984
26 minutes | Read More | Preview

Buna and Bertha: Ballad Singers
Performance of and commentary on Anglo-American ballads and songs by 86 and 92 year old mountain women, Buna Hicks of Beech Creek and Bertha Baird of Rominger in western North Carolina.
Music, Women / Appalachia / 1973
13 minutes | Read More | Preview

Dreadful Memories: The Life of Sarah Ogan Gunning, 1910-1983
Born in the coalfields of eastern Kentucky, Gunning suffered a life of bitter poverty which became the fuel for dozens of moving songs about working people, the mines, and the great coal strikes of the twenties and thirties. Gunning's a cappella roots music is intercut throughout the interviews and archival footage.
Music, Women, Work, Social Justice/Protest / Appalachia / 1988
38 minutes | Read More | Preview

Edd Presnell: Dulcimer Maker
Edd Presnell, a mountain craftsman and native of Watauga County, North Carolina, demonstrates and comments on the construction of a dulcimer.  Presnell learned his craft from his father-in-law.  Film includes a brief performance on a finished dulcimer by his wife, Nettie.
Arts & Crafts, Traditional, Work / Appalachia / 1973
06 minutes | Read More | Preview

Fiddlers' Grove: A Celebration of Old Time

Every spring for more than 75 years musicians from all over the country gather in the foothills of North Carolina at Fiddler's Grove. Susan and Donna Campbell's hour-long documentary on Fiddler's Grove, produced on the occasion of the festival's 70th anniversary

Music, Festivals/Customs / Appalachia / 1994
56 minutes | Read More | Preview

Gandy Dancers 1973
This remarkable film features field recordings of work chants of Gandy Dancers including aligning songs and chants to knock out slack in the rail. 
Music, Work, African American Culture / Appalachia / 1973
14 minutes | Read More

Hamper McBee: Raw Mash
A candid portrait of the Tennesse ballad singer, story-teller, and part-time moonshiner Hamper McBee.
Foodways, Music, Narrative & Verbal Arts, Rural Life / Appalachia / 1978
29 minutes | Read More | Preview

Hazel Dickens: It's Hard to Tell the Singer from the Song

From the coalfields of West Virginia to the factories of Baltimore, Hazel Dickens has lived the songs she sings. Interviews with Hazel and fellow musicians such as Alison Krauss, Naomi Judd, and Dudley Connell are interwoven with archival footage, recent performances, and 16 songs including “Mama’s Hand,” “ Working Girl Blues,” and “Black Lung.”

Music, Women, Work, Folkmusic Revival, Social Justice/Protest / Appalachia / 2001
01 hour, 00 minutes | Read More | Preview

His Eye is on the Sparrow

Ethel Caffie-Austin, daughter of the coalfields, is West Virginia's "First Lady of Gospel Music." This program features Ethel performing a range of spirituals, hymns and contemporary gospel numbers that represent the rich cultural heritage of African American Song and worship.

Music, Religion, Women, African American Culture, Social Justice/Protest / Appalachia / 1999
28 minutes | Read More | Preview

In Jesus' Name: Taking Up Serpents
They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover. Mark 16: 18

Healing & Medicine, Religion / Appalachia / 1991
47 minutes | Read More | Preview

It Ain't City Music
It Ain't City Music was filmed at the National Country Music Contest at Lake Whippoorwill in Warrenton, Virginia, in 1972. "Any country song you hear nowadays, the guy's either in jail or just got divorced," notes a man who continues, "but it's their lives and they write songs about it."
Music, Costume/Dress, Festivals/Customs, Play / South / 1973
15 minutes | Read More | Preview

Morgan Sexton: Bull Creek Banjo Player
Eastern Kentucky's Morgan Sexton cut his first banjo out of the bottom of a lard bucket, and some seventy years later won the National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Award for his "amazingly pure and unaffected singing and playing style." In this program, the eighty-year-old Sexton shares his life and music.
Music, Work, Rural Life, Aging / Appalachia / 1991
28 minutes | Read More | Preview

Ott Blair: Sledmaker
Demonstration of and commentary on the mountain craft of building wooden farm sleds by Ott Blair, a native of Heaton, North Carolina.  Discussion includes first selling sled and his attitudes toward economic self-sufficiency.
Arts & Crafts, Traditional, Work, Agriculture / Appalachia / 1973
05 minutes | Read More | Preview

People Who Take Up Serpents

Members of a branch of the Holiness churches who base their religious beliefs and practices on Bible verses, especially Mark 16:18. The members handle serpents, hold fire to their bodies, speak in tongues, lay hands on the sick and cast out devils.

Healing & Medicine, Religion / Appalachia / 1974
36 minutes | Read More | Preview

Powerhouse for God
Powerhouse for God is a portrait of an old-fashioned Baptist preacher John Sherfy, his family, and their church in Virginia's northern Blue Ridge Mountains. Audiences who were born and raised among old-time southern Baptists say this film captures the fierce preaching, determined singing, autobiographical witnessing, and stern doctrine that characterizes these religious communities.
Religion / Appalachia / 1989
57 minutes | Read More | Preview

Rattlesnakes: A Festival at Cross Forks, PA
The annual rattlesnake bagging contest at this tiny Appalachian festival includes a parade, a fair, firefighters’ contests, and a greased pig chase. A George Hornbein/Ken Thigpen film.
Festivals/Customs, Play, Rural Life, Sports/Hunting / Appalachia / 1992
24 minutes | Read More | Preview

Remembering The High Lonesome
Profiles filmmaker, photographer, artist, and musician John Cohen. The film examines the birth of a new artistic ethic and counterculture through John Cohen's involvement with the Beat Generation, abstract expressionist painters, and the Folk Music Revival, and it explores the role of an outsider documenting the life and arts of an Appalachian community.
Music, Narrative & Verbal Arts, Folkmusic Revival / Appalachia / 2003
27 minutes | Read More | Preview

Sitting On Top of the World at the Fiddlers' Convention: Union Grove

The fiddlers' convention at Union Grove is the oldest bluegrass music festival of the U.S., held on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. This film documents the intense hippy-ness of this festival during the 1970s.

Dance, Music, Regional, Folkmusic Revival / Appalachia / 1974
24 minutes | Read More

Sweet Is the Day: A Sacred Harp Family Portrait
The story of the Woottens of Sand Mountain, Alabama, one of the key singing families who have helped Sacred Harp music survive and flourish for more than 150 years. The video explores how Sacred Harp singing is about more than just music - it is a life-shaping force, reflected by tradition, deep spiritual belief, and the community that embraces it.
Music, Religion, Family / Appalachia / 2001
59 minutes | Read More | Preview

Talking Feet: Solo Southern Dance: Buck, Flatfoot and Tap
Talking Feet is the first documentary to feature flatfoot, buck, hoedown, and rural tap dancing, the styles of solo Southern dancing which are a companion to traditional old-time music and on which modern clog dancing is based. A film by old time music master, Mike Seeger.
Dance / South / 1987
01 hour, 27 minutes | Read More | Preview

Well Known Stranger: Howard Finster's Workout
Well Known Stranger: Howard Finster's Workout takes an intimate look at artist Howard Finster as he conducts a workshop or a "workout" as he calls it, at Mountain Lake, Virginia. Finster talks at length about his many and varied methods of art making. He also sings and picks a mean banjo
Religion, Arts, Visionary and Outsider / Appalachia / 1987
28 minutes | Read More | Preview

Women of Old Time Music: Tradition and Change in the Missouri Ozarks
Women of Old-time Music: Tradition and Change in the Missouri Ozarks takes on the commonly-held folk music scholarship assertion that women did not widely participate in old-time music in the Ozarks.Through performances and interviews with senior generations of women musicians in southern Missouri, the film illustrates the central role women played, and continue to play, in the development of old-time music, culture, and community identity.
Music, Women, Aging / Appalachia / 2003
54 minutes | Read More | Preview

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