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The Popovich Brothers of South Chicago

Film by Jill Godmilow, Martin Koenig, Ethel Raim
Produced by Mary Koenig, Ethel Raim and Jill Godmilow
Cinematographer: Tom Hurwitz with Steve Lenzer
Sound: Chat Gunther
Editing: Jill Godmilow
Copyright: 1978 Jill Godmilow
59 minutes, Color
Original format: Film: 16mm, 1978
Distributor: Facets Multimedia
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Home streaming only. For other permissions apply to Jill Godmilow, Martin Koenig, Ethel Raim or to the distributor, Facets Multimedia.


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THE POPOVICH BROTHERS OF SOUTH CHICAGO is a portrait of a family of musicians in the heart of the Serbian-American community of South Chicago, and especially, the five Popovich brothers who made up the most famous and well loved tamburitza ensemble in the U.S. The film demonstrates the powerful role music plays in Serbian communities, the loving force it exerts on all members there and the tension that could unravel the cohesiveness of these communities when second and third generation, college-educated Serbians opt for professional lives in other cities. The film also chronicles some difficult developments in the life of these musicians who have been playing together since 1926, when their mother sent them off as children on a tour to play for the isolated Serbian mining and steel mill communities of the West and Midwest.

In 1976, twelve hundred Serbian-Americans came to Chicago from all over the country to celebrate the Popovich Brothers’ 50th anniversary of making music for the Serbian community. Just a few months later, the youngest brother and prima player, Marko, died suddenly of a heart attack. The remaining brothers felt no desire to continue making music and for some time there was talk of the Popovich Brothers never playing again. Then one day, the filmmakers, who had never lost hope, got a phone call from one of the Popovich sisters who told them that the brothers were beginning to make music again around the kitchen table, and talking about finding a young Serbian musician to join the group. A year later, the Popovich Brothers Tamburitza Orchestra accepted a New Years gig at Kojo's bar, where they played their hearts out for the community. Bobby Lalich, a 17 year old brach player had joined the brothers. (He continued playing with them for about eight years.) The Popovich Brothers continued making music for South Chicago and all the other Serbian communities in the U.S., until Adam Popovich died in 2001. All in all, they played together for 75 years.

THE POPOVICH BROTHERS OF SOUTH CHICAGO has recently been restored and is available on DVD from Facets Multimedia.

"The Popovich Brothers" is filled with songs and life, with the lilting, driving and sometimes sad music of Serbia… it marvels at the fact that an ethnic musical culture can not only survive to the third and fourth generation in America, but prosper.
--- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times


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