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Saturday December 3rd

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Ackland Film Forum highlights blues, rock and Broadway music

From country and blues to rock to Broadway, a genre of American music exists for everyone to sing along with.

The Ackland Film Forum, a collaboration between the Ackland Art Museum and several departments at UNC, is exploring these genres through the “America’s Music” film series during February and March at the Varsity Theater. On select Tuesday and Thursday evenings, one or two films related to a certain music genre will be screened and followed by a discussion with a guest scholar.

Allison Portnow, the museum’s public programs manager, said the Ackland Film Forum decided to showcase these movies in the spring because the Ackland is currently exhibiting “America Seen: The Hunter and Cathy Allen Collection of Social Realist Prints,” an exhibition of Depression-era prints.

“Since so many of the music genres that are featured in the ‘America’s Music’ film series are from the same time period — the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s — we thought it would be a great way to enhance what we’re offering through the exhibition and to bring in some of the music culture into the discussion when people see the exhibition,” she said.

The “America’s Music” series is co-presented with the UNC Music Library, the music department, the Center for the Study of the American South and the Southern Folklife Collection. It came about through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“One of the really great things about the grant that we got is that it came with all of the film selections with great essays for participants to read, resource guides for people to look up more things from that musical and artistic culture and discussion guides,” Portnow said.

Most of the guest scholars for the series are graduate students or faculty from the UNC music department. As a UNC music department alumna, Portnow said it was easy for her to find discussion leaders because of her connections to former classmates and professors.

“We’re really lucky to have scholars that have their primary research on all of these topics, and they’ve been really generous in volunteering to come lead these discussions,” Portnow said. “For me, I loved that we got this series through the grant because music is my background, too, so it’s kind of nice to combine what I do at the Ackland with what I studied in graduate school and with film.”

Chris Reali, a Ph.D. candidate in musicology at UNC, was the guest expert for the film screening on blues and gospel music held on Feb. 25. “Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: ‘Feel Like Going Home’” and “Say Amen, Somebody” were the film selections for the evening.

Reali said the discussion topic was focused on soul music and ranged between blues, jazz and even contemporary music.

“I think they liked it,” he said. “They saw a half hour of each film, then the lights came on and we had a 15- to 20-minute discussion. It gave a very good perspective on blues and gospel music because it gave a bite-size portion of the music history of America.”

Reali said the film series is great for the Chapel Hill audience because it’s a free event and a good time.

“It’s cool that these movies aren’t usually shown in the movie theaters, so it gives them a great opportunity to watch them and discuss,” he said.

arts@dailytarheel.com

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