“Richard Johnston: Hill Country Troubadour,” a documentary from the University of Alabama Center for Public Television and Radio, will be shown in Rome, Italy as a part of the 7th annual Mojo Station Blues Festival. The three day festival features performances by blues musicians and films on blues related subjects.
The Mojo Station radio program was created by Gianluca Diana and Pietropaolo Moroncelli in 2002 to celebrate and promote blues music in Italy. The program led to the creation of the Mojo Station Blues Society, a non profit organization, which established the Mojo Station Blues Festival in 2005. Each year the festival brings live blues music and documentary films to an appreciative audience in Rome.
“Richard Johnston: Hill Country Troubadour” will screen on Friday, November 4th at the Cinema Palazzo. The film film tells the story of a Memphis, Tennessee based musician who draws his inspiration from the hill country style of music from north Mississippi. Johnston is a popular performer at venues around the world but at the time the documentary was shot, he was performing primarily on the sidewalk along Beale Street in Memphis. The documentary has been screened at film festivals across the US and Europe and has won five festival awards. It was produced and directed by Max Shores.
Susan Gregg Gilmore's southern roots are evident in her two novels, Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen and The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove. While many Southern novelists claim Lee Smith's influence, Gilmore is the sole Bookmark guest who can claim Smith for seventh grade English. "She taught us we all had a story," Gilmore said.
NPR's Alan Cheuse said Gilmore's first novel was a "stand-out coming of age novel. Her second was part of TARGET’s Emerging Author Program. Special thanks go to Jacksonville State University for hosting Bookmark at its annual literary conference On the Brink and Gena Christopher for her generosity.
When author Darnell Arnoult was celebrated by Northeast Alabama Community College's Arts and
Humanities Speaker's Forum, she and Don Noble had a conversation about writing her novel, Sufficient Grace. According to the book jacket, "Sufficient Grace brings Southern warmth, wit, and even a touch of down-home cooking to a beautifully paced story filled with pitch-perfect characters and a magical sense of an unforgettable place." According to Don Noble, the culinary journey was indeed an unexpected delight. Special thanks to Dr. Joan Reeves, Dr. Julia Everett and the Library staff of the Cecil B. Word Learning Resource Center and everyone at Northeast Alabama Community College for their warmth and hospitality!
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.