Documentary ‘American Epic’, a love letter to recorded sound

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“The film is a love letter to recorded sound”, according to magazine Austin360. That’s why we are really looking forward to the premiere of American Epic this May 16. American Epic is a  serie of music films focusing on the birth of modern music in the United States. It comprises a three-part historical music documentary, a feature-length performance film, and a set of companion album releases. The project is executive-produced by Jack White, T Bone Burnett, and Robert Redford, directed by Bernard MacMahon and written by Bernard MacMahon, Allison McGourty, and Duke Erikson of Lo-Max Films. It is produced by McGourty, MacMahon, and Erikson, and by Bill Holderman of Wildwood Enterprises. The supervising editor is Dan Gitlin. The films were screening as a work in progress at a small number of prestigious film festivals in 2016 and 2017, and have garnered critical acclaim and several awards.

Featuring newly discovered film footage and photographs, American Epic is the result of “some eight years of research” by MacMahon. It examines the period from the 1920s when US record labels explored rural America to find new audiences for music, and recorded “a huge variety of folk, blues, country and ethnic songs”, representing “the DNA of America, its raw expression”. The films feature “exclusive interviews with some of the last living witnesses to that era, when the musical strands of a diverse nation first emerged”.

Redford has described the project as “America’s greatest untold story … an account of the cultural revolution that ultimately united a nation”

For the feature-length performance special, The American Epic Sessions, the first electrical recording system was reconstructed, and contemporary artists including Nas, Willie Nelson, Elton John, Beck, Steve Martin, and Jack White were filmed as they used it to make new records.

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