Report and Images 

from the

Appalachian Film Festival

April 27-29, 2006, in Huntingtion, WV.

"Down in the Old Belt: Voices from the tobacco south", was selected as

Best Documentary Film in the juried competition at the festival.

The festival entries were selected from hundreds of submissions of filmmakers from the Appalachian Region of the United States. To qualify to submit, filmmakers had to be residents of the 13 states that make up the Appalachian Region (NY, PA, OH, MD, WV, VA, KY, TN, NC, SC, GA, AL, MS) The submission categories were: Feature film, Documentary film, Short film, Young filmmaker, Screenplay, and Music Video. To see the 2006 winners (and other years) in these categories and links to their websites, click here.

This festival is a gem. Generally, five entries were selected for each category. This translates into two basic factors that make the festival special. All films were viewed at the same theater on the same screen, which means that filmmakers were able to view all the other films. After each screening the filmmaker would respond to questions from the audience, adding to the creative learning experience for everyone. Also the festival featured the independent filmmaker and isn't biased against quality digital filmmaking.

An added bonus for this 2006 festival was the Special Guest Filmmaker, Roger Sherman, who gave a workshop titled "The Anatomy of the Perfect Documentary". (The screening of "Down in the Old Belt" followed this workshop, so I was relieved to hear Roger say there was no such thing as a PERFECT documentary—though he went on to outline how a filmmaker can make the best documentary he or she can.) This was very informative and Roger stayed for the entire festival, viewing films with the rest of us, giving us opportunities to talk shop and get technical details. Roger received an APPY Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Awards Banquet. Roger started Florentine Films with Ken Burns and Buddy Squires and his documentaries have been honored with a host of awards including a Peabody Award, an Emmy Award and two Academy Award nominations. For more information on Roger Sherman, click here.

Roger's documentary "The Rhythm of My Soul: Kentucky Roots Music" was the last documentary screened at the festival on Saturday night and fittingly, was its world premiere screening. Quite a few of the musicians featured in this beautiful documentary came to the screening.

At the awards banquet, a short block away at The Frederick (everything at this festival was within walking distance—a wonderful plus, we didn't use our car after arriving at the hotel until we left after the festival), was a festive and informative evening. Besides the awards ceremony, a panel of film movers and shakers made comments and took questions. The spirit of Independent Filmmaking was honored this evening.

As the award for Best Documentary was being announced, in the classic mode of "and the winner of Best Documentary film (tearing of the envelope, suspense building) goes to...(long pause)...Down in the Old Belt..." Cathy, my wife and I were bowled over. My acceptance "speech" was unrehearsed, but I remembered to thank Cathy and my main funding source the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Back home, I overheard Cathy on the phone telling a friend about the award, that I hadn't really prepared a speech, and then she said, laughing, "Oh, I didn't say it was short."

Following are some pictures from Huntington, the festival and the awards banquet.


     Jim and Roger Sherman with their APPY Awards          


"Old Belt" flyer for film festival


Jim showing Steve Chapman of WV PBS his documentary's VA General Assembly Commendation

Jim talking with Rebecca Johnson and J.P. Linkous of the Huntington Regional Film Commisssion

Talking with aspiring filmmakers Josh and Stevie at the festival party on the Ohio R.

Cathy at festival party on the Ohio River