A film spotlighting eastern Kentucky old-time banjo master Lee Sexton has begun a series of screenings across the United States, beginning at Harvard University last week and continuing at several venues throughout Kentucky this week. Linefork follows Sexton, who is in his eighties, and his wife Opal through their daily life in the mountains of rural Letcher County, Kentucky. It focuses not only on his unique, two-finger style of banjo playing, but also on the economic, health, and family struggles that he faces. It’s a slice-of-life film about a man whose life has been shaped by the music of the mountains.
Sexton has been featured at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival among other prestigious musical events, and on a number of recordings, including several Smithsonian/Folkways recordings and his own acclaimed albums on June Appal Records. He made a brief appearance in the film Coal Miner’s Daughter, playing banjo in the pie supper scene, and still regularly plays banjo at the monthly Carcassonne Square Dance a few miles from his house. Sexton has mentored several generations of younger musicians, and takes time each summer to stop in at local music schools and camps.
The film was the brainchild of Boston-area musician Vic Rawlings, who had heard Sexton’s picking on one of the Folkways albums. Rawlings visited Sexton in Kentucky several times between 2004 and 2012, and the recordings he made convinced him that someone should make a film. He contacted Jeff Silva, a filmmaker who has taught at Harvard, and the two began filming Sexton in and around his home. The project took about twenty-four days to shoot and a year to edit; it has screened at several film festivals and throughout Europe and the United Kingdom in the year since its release.
Tonight (October 24), the film will debut in Lexington, Kentucky at the University of Kentucky’s John Jacob Niles Center for American Music. Two other screenings in Kentucky, at Appalshop in Whitesburg, and at the University of Pikeville, were held earlier this week. The screening in Lexington will begin at 7:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
For more information on Linefork, visit the film’s website at www.linefork.com.