We have written before about The Mountain Minor, an independent film by Dale Farmer that offers an uplifting story of traditional music and experience.
It falls into the category of “Appalachian positivity,” conveying a fairly recent change in the way the mountain people of Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina are portrayed in the popular culture. Whereas once these solid, hard-working folks were downplayed as hillbillies and yokels, the growing academic field of Appalachian Studies has brought attention to the inspiring stories of overcoming hardship and simple folk wisdom possessed by these Americans once derided as “white trash.”
Farmer’s goal with his film was to highlight the strong families and sense of tradition that tied these folks to the mountain region, but instead of a documentary that weaved these stories together, he wrote a dramatization that followed the life of an individual fiddle shared down in a single family over more than 100 years. A serious old time music enthusiast himself, the director took an unusual tack in producing The Mountain Minor. Instead of trying to teach trained actors to mimic the playing of old time music on banjos and fiddles on a prerecorded soundtrack, he instead taught skilled traditional musicians to act in major roles.
He described his mission thusly:
“We’re part of a grassroots movement encouraging Appalachians, both in Appalachia and in the places their families migrated, to embrace their amazing heritage. We’re doing it though the music that has had a resurgence of popularity in recent years. Musicians and fans of traditional Appalachian music of all ages will experience the substance and special meaning of the music as it was passed down over the generations to today’s stages, porches. and media devices.”
This trailer gives a taste of the story arc, as the lives of several successive generations of Abners are connected by this particular fiddle.
Farmer was in the midst of a film screening tour, with live music and panel discussions, when COVID-19 hit the US like a box of rocks. The gathering restrictions have decimated the film industry just as it has music, and Dale had no choice but to cancel all the screenings.
So he has decided to distribute The Mountain Minor for home viewing, both through major streaming platforms, and on DVD. It is available now for rental on both Amazon Direct and Vimeo On Demand. Amazon Prime subscribers can watch it for no additional fee. DVD and Blu-Ray copies can be purchased from Amazon for delivery by mail.
If you love bluegrass and old time music, and have an interest in the culture that spawned it, be sure to add The Mountain Minor to your list of recommended viewing during your home segregation.