Homemade Hillbilly Jam
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- Music, Cultural History, Society, and Religion
Hillbillies haven't died off; they've simply become neo-hillbillies. Three families of musicians in the Ozark Mountains of Southwestern Missouri give new meaning to the word "hillbilly". Float down the backwaters, soak up some old time religion, savor a washboard duel, and bask in the neon lights of the pseudo-hillbilly show town Branson. Lean back and merge into hillbilliness.
- Show treatment
Everyone's got a notion about hillbillies: hicks from the sticks, The Beverly Hillbillies, rednecks in beat up old pickups, illiterate in-breds. But what about neohillbillies - the offspring of the original pioneers who homesteaded the Ozark Mountains 150 years ago?
HOMEMADE HILLBILLY JAM follows three such families of modern-day hillbillies in the Ozark Mountains of Southwestern Missouri back to the roots of their music-making heritage. Leading the pack is 34-year-old singer/songwriter Mark Bilyeu from the hillbilly band Big Smith (www.bigsmithband.com), who have been shaking up the music scene in Mid- America with energetic, self-ironic tales of life along Bull Creek with their expansive hillbilly clan. All well-educated, modern-day hippies reared on gospel and folk music, Mark and his cousins from Big Smith are refreshingly anachronistic in today's frenzied world, and a vivid reminder of the hellraising antics of their bootlegging ancestors. While their sharp tongues and leftist sympathies are an eyesore in this staunchly conservative, Baptist region, Big Smith's firm commitment to preserving their family's musical heritage has earned them accolades from fans of all persuasions.
In the Ozarks, blood runs thicker than water, and everybody appears to be related to everybody else. Mark and his cousins are no exception. In 1959, their relatives, the Mabes, were the first to found a show in nearby Branson.
Although The Baldknobbers started off as an authentic hillbilly show, the Mabes and their offspring have long since gone commercial, joining in the wave of flashy neon lights and stars and stripes that mark the Bible Belt show town Branson. For Mark and Big Smith, who have been courted by more than one Branson producer, The Baldknobbers represent their nightmare vision of selling their souls and stagnating in a musical routine few Branson musicians manage to escape. Today it is hard to imagine the tremendous influence The Baldknobbers had on Mark and his cousins while they were growing up; Mark claims to have seen the show over 100 times!
The Pine Ridge Singers could not be a greater contrast to The Baldknobbers. These distant relatives of Big Smith, who aren't quite sure how exactly they're related ("You just say Bilyeu around here and everyone's related somehow ...") are clearly more hillbilly than anyone else in the film. Larry "Dupe" Brown, the patriarch of the family, was born and raised in a log cabin in the Ozarks, and is determined to keep the land in the family. When he's not off feeding the cows, he plays Jimi Hendrix imitations on his electric mandolin. Together with his wife Dottie, daughter Debbie, son-in-law Dana, and grandson Larry, Dupe plays at monthly gospel services at Pine Ridge Church in the Mark Twain National Forest near the Taney / Christian County line. In their slightly awkward but heartfelt manner, the Pine Ridge Singers embody a rural gospel tradition which is becoming harder and harder to find.
HOMEMADE HILLBILLY JAM avoids an historical or socio-economic approach to hillbilly culture in favor of an insider's look at his family's musical heritage. Mark's reflective, at times laconic manner, dark humor, strong attachment to the land and his family, and his ambivalence about the times we live in set the tone for the entire film.
Sumptuously shot on Super 16, and embellished by old photos and archival footage, HOMEMADE HILLBILLY JAM relishes the ethereal textures of the rural hillbilly world and the muted colors and ghostly bare trees of the hillsides in late autumn. For the most part, we have avoided sit-down interviews in favor of conversations and spontaneous exchanges before and after concerts, at Thanksgiving, during a jam session in an old country church, around a bonfire, etc. Although these conversations play an important role, it is the music which propels us through the film, taking us from a Big Smith concert to a family jam, into the world of gospel music, and off to the neon lights of The Baldknobbers and Branson. Songs are not explained, but experienced in the intensity of the musicians' playing, in a fever-pitched washboard duel, in Cousin Jay's frenzied spoon playing, in Mark's trembling tongue and sundrenched face in an old schoolhouse while singing a folk song passed down through the generations, and through the lyrics, which span twisted tales of moonshining and adultery and heartfelt stories of faith and life as a modern- day hillbilly in a rapidly changing world. HOMEMADE HILLBILLY JAM is a film for the soul, a celebration of intense yet fragile emotions, a salute to the hillbilly spirit, which refuses to die.
- Running time
- 80 minutes
- Rick Minnich ... Writer/Director
- Axel Schneppat ... Director of Photography
- Raimund von Scheibner ... Sound recordist, Sound Designer
- Olaf Jacobs ... Producer
- Matt Sweetwood ... Editor
- Hans Schumann ... Sound Mix
- Kai Schoormann ... Sound Mix
- Prod. Co.
- Hoferichter & Jacobs GmbH
- Years of Production
- Ozark Mountains Missouri
- Prod. Partners
- Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, MEDIA, Mitteldeutsche Medienfoerderung MDM
- Release year
- Hot Docs, Sheffield, True/False, Hot Springs, Big Sky, Cleveland, River Run, Dallas Video Festival
- Prize of the State Film Service Rheinland-Pfalz at the 22nd Video/Filmtage, Koblenz, Germany, Nov. 2005
- US DVD released through First Run Features, German DVD released by Epix Media AG
- Broadcast (Acq.)
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