The Librarian and the Banjo
USA | 2013 | 57 min | digital projection
documentary | section: Wisconsin’s Own
Sunday April 14, 4:30 p.m.
UW Elvehjem Building
directed by: Jim Carrier
cinematography: Jim Carrier
producer: Jim Carrier
editor: Jim Carrier and Kelley Baker
An inspiring account of both a lost history and its dogged excavator, The Librarian and the Banjo recounts the work of Dena Epstein, a music librarian whose inquiry into a forgotten abolitionist’s diary (at the Wisconsin History Society) sparked an interest in the history of black folk music. Her research over the next twenty-five years ultimately proved that the banjo-long associated with rural white culture in the South-originated in Africa. Epstein’s work not only exploded previously-held views about black folk music and its legitimacy as a subject of academic study, but helped to spark a new generation of African-American string band music. Madison-based director Jim Carrier explores both Epstein’s career and the impact that her work has had amongst music scholars, practitioners, and fans with a clarity and attention to detail worthy of his subject. Folk luminaries like Bela Fleck, Eric Weissberg, and the Carolina Chocolate Drops provide eloquent testimonials, but the film’s true star is Epstein herself. Now ninety-six years old, she continues to exhibit the intelligence, tenacity, and love of her subject that The Librarian and the Banjo chronicles with such infectious enthusiasm.
Director Jim Carrier scheduled to attend.
– Matthew Connolly