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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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 Bronx Irish at the Ramparts
 
Selected Films

Old Films

Films in the Folkstreams collection made between 1946 and 1975.

Old Films

Films in the Folkstreams collection made between 1946 and 1975.

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Adirondack Minstrel

Lawrence Older [1912-1982] is a relaxed, direct and engaging performer who spent the majority of his life working in the woods. His songs and fiddle tunes are mostly from his family tradition and are representative of the local melodies and the rich musical tradition of America's northeastern states.

Music, Work, Regional / Northeast / 1976
20 minutes | Read More | Preview

Afro-American Work Songs in a Texas Prison
Pete and Toshi Seeger, their son Daniel, and folklorist Bruce Jackson visited a Texas prison in Huntsville in March of 1966 and produced this rare document of of work songs by inmates of the Ellis Unit.
Music, Work, African American Culture / South / 1966
29 minutes | Read More | Preview

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

The Amish: A People of Preservation

The Amish keep surprising their technology-programmed neighbors by keeping alive ways and beliefs that many modern Americans wish they could recapture. Mennonite historian John Ruth takes us sympathetically into the Amish mindset.

Religion, Work, Agriculture, Children, Family, Rural Life, Aging / Middle Atlantic / 1975
54 minutes | Read More | Preview

Basketmaker: Elizabeth Proper
1973 16-mm film of Elizabeth Proper, the last of the white oak basketmakers in a community near Taconic Hills in eastern New York State.
Arts & Crafts, Traditional, Women / Northeast / 1973
07 minutes | Read More

Bellota - A Story of Round-Up

The disappearing traditions of the old cattle ranches of the Southwest are presented in director Philip Spalding's film BELLOTA. This 1969 film concentrates on five Mexican American vacquero-cowboys riding a month-long roundup on an 82,000 acre ranch in the rugged high country of Southern Arizona.

Work, Agriculture, Rural Life, Hispanic Culture / Southwest / 1969
32 minutes | Read More | Preview

Black Delta Religion
This film was made from b/w Super 8mm footage that William Ferris gathered in rural Mississippi in 1968. The film includes footage from rural church services and a full immersion baptism.
Religion, African American Culture / South / 1973
14 minutes | Read More | Preview

Blues Like Showers of Rain
John Jeremy’s introduction to the world of Blues is lovingly conceived and powerfully constructed from photographs and field recordings made by Paul Oliver on a journey through the South in 1960.
Music, African American Culture / South / 1970
31 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

The Cradle is Rocking
George "Kid Shiek" Colar and the Olympia Brass Band are featured in this rare film about New Orleans Jazz, directed by Frank DeCola.
Music, Religion, African American Culture / South / 1968
12 minutes | Read More

Dry Wood
A glimpse into the life, food, and Mardi Gras celebrations of black Creoles in French Louisiana, featuring the stories and music of "Bois Sec" Ardoin and Canray Fontenot. Dry Wood is one of a number of Les Blank's critically acclaimed films on Lousiana life and culture. Hot Pepper, a film on zydeco great Clifton Chenier, is a companion to Dry Wood.
Foodways, Music, African American Culture / South / 1973
37 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

Elijah Pierce: Wood Carver

Hundreds of people must remember going to Elijah Pierce's barbershop on Long Street, seeking Pierce's latest woodcarvings, spiritual conversation, or simply a haircut and gossip. They may have marveled at brightly colored animal figures, vivid carvings of sports heroes, or the ambitious Book of Wood depicting the life of Christ. Or, like artist Aminah Robinson, they may have entered another level of communication, discussing God's ''laws of life'' with Pierce.

''When I see his work now, it brings it all back,'' Robinson said. ''He hasn't really gone. His life is timeless and there's much left to be learned. . . . The smallest child can appreciate him. His work knows no age, race or gender barrier. It reaches all people.''

/ South / 1974
18 minutes | Read More | Preview

Eskimo Artist: Kenojuak
This documentary shows how an Inuit artist's drawings are transferred to stone, printed and sold. Kenojuak Ashevak became the first woman involved with the printmaking co-operative in Cape Dorset.
Arts & Crafts, Traditional, Women, Family, Native American / Canada / 1963
19 minutes | Read More

Fannie Bell Chapman: Gospel Singer
Film of the singer/faith healer and folk artist Fannie Bell Chapman from Centreville, Mississippi. Footage includes Chapman and her family singing and praying during church services and at home, a healing service at the Chapman home, and Chapman "speaking in tongues" after healing.
Healing & Medicine, Religion, Women, African American Culture / South / 1975
42 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

Give My Poor Heart Ease: Mississippi Delta Bluesmen
A 1975 account of the blues experience through the recollections and performances of B.B. King, James "Son" Thomas, Shelby "Poppa Jazz" Brown, James "Blood" Shelby, Cleveland "Broom Man" Jones, and inmates from Parchman prison.
Music, African American Culture / South / 1975
21 minutes | Read More | Preview

Grandma Moses

Anna Mary Robertson Moses better known as "Grandma Moses" did all of her painting from remembrance of things past. She liked to sit quietly and think, she once said, and remember and imagine. "Then I'll get an inspiration and start painting; then I'll forget everything, everything except how things used to be and how to paint it so people will know how we used to live."

Arts & Crafts, Traditional, Women, Aging / Northeast / 1950
23 minutes | Read More | Preview

Gravel Springs Fife and Drum
Othar Turner, a fife-maker and musician, owns his farm in the Gravel Springs community in northwest Mississippi. The rhythmical music he and his friends play is called "fife and drum." A 1971 film by Bill Ferris, Judy Peiser, and David Evans from the Center for Southern Folklore.
Arts & Crafts, Traditional, Customs, Music, African American Culture / South / 1972
10 minutes | Read More | Preview

High Steel
This short documentary offers a dizzying view of the Mohawk Indians of Kahnawake who work in Manhattan erecting the steel frames of skyscrapers.
Work, Native American / Canada / 1965
14 minutes | Read More | Preview

The Hollow
A rare 1975 film on a rural impoverished community in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. This remarkable film deals with stereotypes of improvised rural life, but unfolds into a sympathetic view of the community and their suspicion of outsiders.
Family, Rural Life / Northeast / 1975
01 hour, 04 minutes | Read More | Preview

Home Movie: An American Folk Art
This 1974 documentary produced in the era before video cameras chronicles the tradition of home movies in American family folklore. It explores the common themes in family films, and features three individual families as they watch their home movies, suggesting how these documents structure family memory.
Arts & Crafts, Traditional, Customs, Family / Middle Atlantic / 1975
19 minutes | Read More | Preview

Homeplace
Folklife in the hill county of northern Mississippi in the early 1970s.
/ South / 1975
27 minutes | Read More

How to Build an Igloo
This classic short film shows how to make an igloo using only snow and a knife. Two Inuit men in Canada’s Far North choose the site, cut and place snow blocks and create an entrance--a shelter completed in one-and-a-half hours.
Arts & Crafts, Traditional, Native American / Canada / 1949
10 minutes | Read More

I Ain't Lying: Folktales from Mississippi
16mm color documentary based on fieldwork William Ferris conducted with African American storytellers and bluesmen in the communities of Leland and Rose Hill, Mississippi. The stories include include folk and religious tales, jokes, toast telling sessions, and characters from African American oral tradition.
Music, Narrative & Verbal Arts, Work, African American Culture / South / 1975
22 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

Its All In My Hands: John Prince, Shoemaker

Young Italian American shoemaker John Prince, following in his father Tony's footsteps, invites you into his shop to share the pleasure and pride he feels from his work.

Arts & Crafts, Traditional, Ethnic & Immigrant Cultures, Work / Middle Atlantic / 1972
08 minutes | Read More

Made in Mississippi: Black Folk Art and Crafts
A 1975 Bill Ferris film that features artists from a number of different craft traditions discussing and demonstrating their work, including quilting, sculpting, house building, and basketmaking. Artists in the film include James "Son" Thomas, Shelby "Poppa Jazz" Brown, Richard Foster, Othar Turner, Louise Williams, Esther Criss, Leon Clark, Amanda Gordon, Mary Gordon, Lester Willis.
Arts & Crafts, Traditional, African American Culture / South / 1975
18 minutes | Read More | Preview

Mississippi Delta Blues

From 1968 to 1970, Bill Ferris travelled from farms, to jooks to homes collecting music he felt best expressed the richness of the Mississippi Delta.

Arts & Crafts, Traditional, Music, African American Culture / South / 1974
18 minutes | Read More

Onondaga: The Lacrosse Stick Makers
An Onondaga father and son make lacrosse sticks in the traditional way.
Arts & Crafts, Traditional, Sports/Hunting, Native American / Northeast / 1973
06 minutes | Read More

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

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

Pioneer Axe
This is a short film made by Peter Vogt in 1965 about axe making in Oakland, Maine. It documents the process of creating fine axes in the Emerson Stevens shop -- the last axe factory to operate in Oakland. Oakland was once a world-famous center of quality blade-making.
Arts & Crafts, Traditional, Work, Regional / Northeast / 1965
10 minutes | Read More

The Pirogue Maker
In 1948, Robert Flaherty was working on "The Louisiana Story." He was searching for a small boat, or "pirogue" for his young hero. Flaherty soon became aware that pirogue-making was a disappearing art. Finally, when he found Ebdon Allemon, a Cajun craftsman, he persuaded him to make the pirogue. It may well have been the last piroque made in Louisiana. This is a record of that event.
Arts & Crafts, Traditional / South / 1949
14 minutes | Read More | Preview

Pizza Pizza Daddy-O
PIZZA PIZZA DADDY-O (1967) looks at continuity and change in girl's playground games at a Los Angeles school.
Narrative & Verbal Arts, Children, Play, African American Culture / West / 1968
18 minutes | Read More | Preview

Prince Albert Hunt
An experimental film by Ken Harrison, Dallas filmmaker, in the use of Super 8 film for television production. The film is a study of a Terrell, Texas, blues singer/fiddler of the late 20's.
Music, Regional / Southwest / 1974
29 minutes | Read More | Preview

Ray Lum: Mule Trader
Ray Lum (1891--1977) was a mule skinner, a livestock trader, an auctioneer, and an American original.
Narrative & Verbal Arts, Work, Agriculture / South / 1972
18 minutes | Read More | Preview

The Shakers
THE SHAKERS traces the growth, decline, and continuing survival of this remarkable religious sect through the memories and songs of Shaker sisters in New Hampshire and Maine.
Music, Religion, Women / Northeast / 1974
30 minutes | Read More | Preview

Singing Fishermen of Ghana
Pete and Toshi Seeger documented work songs of a fishing community in Ghana, the West-African roots of the work-song tradition shown in the films "Afro American Worksongs in a Texas Prison" and "Gandy Dancers".
Music, Work / World / 1964
13 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

Smithy

Delbert Smith, 88, a hereditary blacksmith, illuminates life around the forge.

Arts & Crafts, Traditional, Work, Rural Life, Aging / Northeast / 1974
05 minutes | Read More

Sometimes I Run: Stanley Maupin, Sidewalk Flusher
1973 portrait of Stanley Maupin who cleans sidewalks at night for the Dallas Department of Sanitation. A film by Blaine Dunlap with music by Ken Watson.
Work, Urban Life / South / 1973
21 minutes | Read More

Sonny Ford, Delta Artist
B/w 16mm documentary film based on fieldwork Ferris conducted with Leland, Mississippi, bluesman and folk artist James "Son" Thomas. Included is footage of Thomas performing at juke houses, his wife preparing dinner, and Thomas making skulls out of clay.
Music, Family, Rural Life, African American Culture / South / 1969
41 minutes | Read More | Preview

Sonny Terry: Whoopin the Blues: Whoopin the Blues
Seated in a motel room on Broadway in Oakland, California where he was filmed while on tour with Brownie McGhee, Sonny, with one small harmonica in his hand, creates a complex and soulful blues solo out of his whooping and hollering, after telling the story of the context that gave birth to that solo
Music, Narrative & Verbal Arts, African American Culture / South / 1969
13 minutes | Read More

Tales of the Supernatural
This film documents a group of teenagers telling urban legends, ghost stories and horror tales. The film explores how teenagers transmit horror stories, what the functions of such stories are for teenagers and the connection between transmission and function in the telling of tales. The film also relates these legends to media images.
Narrative & Verbal Arts / West / 1970
26 minutes | Read More | Preview

They Sing Of A Heaven

This film documents sacred harp singing, a 200 year old tradition of religious singing which survives today in the rural South.

Music, Religion, Rural Life / South / 1972
20 minutes | Read More | Preview

Thoughts on Fox Hunting
Features the legendary huntsman Melvin Poe and the hounds of the Orange County Hunt near The Plains, Virginia.
Rural Life, Sports/Hunting / Middle Atlantic / 1975
30 minutes | Read More | Preview

Til the Butcher Cuts Him Down: New Orleans Jazzman Punch Miller
Philip Spalding's study of the history and men who played New Orleans Jazz through the eyes of one of its greatest trumpet players: Punch Miller (died 1971). Kid Punch was renowned in New Orleans and played with all the greats from that city --King Oliver, Kid Ory, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong. This film is about his life and the changes that New Orleans music went through during his lifetime.
Music, Aging, African American Culture / South / 1971
53 minutes | Read More | Preview

Tinker: John Forshee
John Forshee was born about 1883 and died in 1974 at Cincinnatus, NY. He was a third generation tinsmith and he was filmed in 1973, using his grandfather's patented tinsmithing tools.
Arts & Crafts, Traditional / Northeast / 1973
11 minutes | Read More

To Hear Your Banjo Play
The story of Pete Seeger and the birth of banjo music throughout the Southern United States. Written by Alan Lomax and directed by Irving Lerner, this short feature includes performances from Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Baldwin Hawes, Sonny Terry, Brownee McGhee, Texas Gladden, and Margot Mayo's Square Dance Group.
Dance, Music, Folkmusic Revival / South / 1946
16 minutes | Read More | Preview

Two Black Churches

TWO BLACK CHURCHES" is based on fieldwork Bill Ferris conducted at a church in Vicksburg, Mississippi and at a church in New Haven, Conn. Footage includes a full immersion baptism, congregation members and preachers at both churches discussing their call to the faith, and scenes from worship services at both churches. The film contrasts the two approaches to worship at each church.

Music, Religion, African American Culture / South / 1975
19 minutes | Read More | Preview

Watermen

In 1965 New York filmmaker Holly Fisher focused her camera on the annual skipjack race on the Chesapeake Bay, and on skipjack captain Art Daniels. Over the next three years, she and her co-director, Romas Slezas, filmed Daniels, his family and his colleagues oystering and crabbing and living on the Chesapeake.

Work, Agriculture, Family, Rural Life / Middle Atlantic / 1968
01 hour, 00 minutes | Read More | Preview

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