FolkStreams Presents a Big Film Archive on American Folk Art and Music

Folk­streams is not just a Wun­derkam­mer of Amer­i­can folk tra­di­tions cap­tured on film. It’s also an online repos­i­to­ry for folk films them­selves, whose weird lengths and non-main­stream obses­sions lim­it­ed their chances of wide­spread dis­tri­b­u­tion, while ensur­ing that the major­i­ty of their mak­ers would toil in obliv­ion.

The archive is exceed­ing­ly demo­c­ra­t­ic. Browse by region or gen­er­al sub­jects such as reli­gion, rur­al life, and custom/dress. House­hold names such as B.B. King and Grand­ma Moses exist along­side snake han­dlers (Gretchen Robin­son and Stan Wood­ward’s Peo­ple Who Take Up Ser­pents) and dis­abled tat­too artist Stoney St. Clair, the sub­ject of Alan Gove­nar’s irre­sistible 1981 Stoney Knows How. Admir­ers of the form will be glad to know that the archive is also search­able by film­mak­er and dis­trib­u­tor.

Any one of these short films could pro­vide a folk rem­e­dy anti­dote to a case of acute dig­i­tal over­load. I’d also sug­gest suc­cumb­ing to the archivist’s Net­flix-style, view­ing-his­to­ry-based rec­om­men­da­tions (“If you liked Paint­ed Bride you may also like Mos­qui­toes and High Water.” Think of it as it is a do-it-your­self doc fest on autopi­lot, the sort of once-in-a-blue-moon pro­gram­ming you’d be lucky to catch, per­pet­u­al­ly play­ing on demand.

The clip above comes from the film Give My Poor Heart Ease: Mis­sis­sip­pi Delta Blues­men.

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is doing her bit to keep zines alive with­in the realm of Amer­i­can folk cul­ture.

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