6ART – BLUEGRASS
This is a wonderful unique film about the core and history of Appalachian music – the foundation of bluegrass music. A docu-drama that tells the interrelated stories of old-time music, family, place, and history in the Appalachians. The title refers to a key found often in traditional Appalachian music in which the third note is raised rather than lowered as in a traditional minor key.
The film was made on a shoestring budget and only one cast member had any acting experience. The director’s decision to cast the film with musicians was risky (you will notice some wooden delivery) but it also makes them genuine, believable. The “actors” are all well known bluegrass Appalachian musicians. The film is truly about the music. Generations of director Farmer’s forebears bring traditional mountain tunes alive on the guitar, banjo and violin. The music has a way of transferring you to another time and place.
The plot of the film is loosely based on stories passed down through the family of the film’s writer and director. A violin plays a central role, passing through time with different people. Most of what viewers see in the film actually did happen and every character (with the exception of one) is based on a real person from Farmer’s family. These stories have been rearranged and adapted to create a coherent narrative.
While the film has an Walton-esque vibe, most of those who peopled the Appalachians during the Depression were not inbred moonshiners but rather proud and simple folk making do with limited resources in difficult times. This film tells their story well, with plenty of the distinctive music that helped define their universe.
USA 2019, 89 min, rated G
Directed by Dale Farmer