By Matt Watroba, Folkalley.com
A National Preserve of Documentary Films about American Roots Cultures
If you are a fan of both folk music and film, prepare to spend an afternoon or two (or three) lost in a website called www.folkstreams.net. Thanks to the Southern Folklife Collection and the folks at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, hundreds of films on the subjects of folk music, folk culture, and folkways are up and ready for streaming. Their mission is two-fold: to build a national preserve of hard to find documentary films about American folk or roots cultures and to give them renewed life by streaming them on the internet. They have succeeded in their mission. Warning: poking around on this site is infectious and will most likely lead to many hours of your day missing in action.
The idea came from filmmaker, Tom Davenport who saw the potential of the internet to connect these films with the niche audience who was sure to appreciate them. In most cases, the films are as long as they need to be, rather than edited to a standard that would fit in a television schedule. And what a variety!
You might check out Pete Seeger’s film called, “Afro-American Work Songs in a Texas Prison” where you will see, up close, how singing is used to make hard labor a little easier. You might find the film, “People’s Stuff” interesting. It documents the collectors of unusual objects and the stories behind them. If you are intrigued by the work of Alan Lomax, look into the film “Appalachian Journey.” Lomax travels through the Southern Appalachians illuminating songs, dances and religious rituals as the result of Scotch-Irish migration. Or maybe “Deep Ellum Blues” would be more to your liking. It’s a ten minute film exploring the music scene that exploded out of a small area of Dallas fueled by folks like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, and Leadbelly. The list of films goes on and on…and on.
Here’s what I would love to see happen. If this website is of interest to you, check it out and report back to the Folk Alley blog what you’ve discovered. This way we can turn others on, in the Folk Alley community, to the treasures found in the films at www.folkstreams.net. I look forward to reading about what you find there. — Matt