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Silverdocs Documentary FF

Online Dailies Coverage of SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival taking place June 21-27, 2010 at the AFI Silver Theater


SILVERDOCS Opens With Portrait of A Musical Legend

Tuesday, June 12-------The fifth annual SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival opens this evening with the DC Premiere of PETE SEEGER: THE POWER OF SONG, a loving portrait of the musical living legend, directed by Jim Brown, who profiled Seeger and his 1950s/1960s singing group The Weavers in the award-winning 1982 film THE WEAVERS: WASN'T THAT A TIME.

PETE SEEGER: THE POWER OF SONG, executive produced by television legend and political activist Norman Lear, interweaves the life and music of Pete Seeger, and the growing impact that American folk music played in the social upheavals of the latter half of the 20th century. Pete Seeger’s songs are woven into the fabric of American culture, his enduring legacy of original songs and interpretations of great folk music, from If I Had A Hammer to This Land is Your Land to Bring ‘Em Home, are as "American" as The Star Spangled Banner. In fact, Seeger's love for his country is made evident in all aspects of this documentary portrait, no less when he was being personally hounded for his leftish views during the McCarthy period of the 1950s. Seeger, both with his musical accomplishments and his personal integrity, has inspired generations of musicians and everyday Americans. He is still going strong and making music well into his 80s. The film features emotional interviews with some of the singer/songwriter's most ardent admirers and fellow performers Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Natalie Manes, Bruce Springsteen, Peter Yarrow and many more.

The WeaversThe WeaversMusician, singer, songwriter, folklorist, labor activist, environmentalist, and peace advocate, Seeger was born in Patterson, New York in 1918. At thirteen,he became a subscriber to the leftist journal New Masses and aspired to a career in journalism. In 1936 he heard the five-string banjo for the first time at the Folk Song and Dance Festival in Asheville, North Carolina, and his life was changed forever. He made his way to New York in 1940, eventually landed a job with the Archives of American Folk Music,  seeking out legendary folk-song figures such as the blues singer Leadbelly. In late 1940, he met Woody Guthrie at a "Grapes of Wrath" migrant-worker benefit concert and was inspired to sing folk music and write his own tunes. With a stint in the Army during World War II, Seeger eventually found his way to New York, where he became a prime mover in the post-war development of modern folk music. In 1950, he helped form the singing group The Weavers, which enjoyed instant success with highly sweetened versions of "Goodnight Irene" and other folk tunes. In 1955 Seeger was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee and became one of the few witnesses called that year who didn't invoke the Fifth Amendment. Seeger had cultivated a folk music revival in the 1950s, and the movement gathered momentum from 1958 into the early 1960s. Pete Seeger spent a considerable amount of time in the South during the civil rights marches of the 1960s. It was his variation of an old spiritual, which Seeger called "We Shall Overcome," that has become an anthem of the crusade for equality in America. 

The Vietnam War deeply and personally offended Seeger, who used his network television return on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour to air a scathing attack on Lyndon Johnson's war policies, "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy." The song was cut by network censors, but Seeger made a second appearance on the program and sang the song without interruption. In the 1970s and 1980s he continued to perform benefits for various causes, with his focus increasing on environmental issues.  Seeger, who had long lived in the countryside north of New York City by the Hudson River, became a vocal activist for cleaning up the polluted river and bringing attention to environmental issues long before they were chic or acceptable. In a career that now spans six decades, Seeger has become a highly visible and much beloved figure in American life. OdettaOdettaHe has issued some one hundred records, written and collaborated on numerous radical songbooks, articles, and technical manuals on playing the banjo. He remainss one of the last links with the optimistic and expansive culture of Depression-era America. 

At tonight's screening, director Jim Brown, members of the Seeger family including his grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger and his group The Mammals, along with folk music greats Ysaya Barnwell (of Sweet Honey in the Rock) and folk legends Odetta and Tom Paxton will come together to celebrate Pete Seeger with a post screening performance. The evening will conclude with a gala reception at Discovery Communications World Headquarters just across the street from the AFI Silver Theatre.

Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Online Dailies Editor

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About Silverdocs Documentary FF

Sandy Mandelberger
(International Media Resources)

Online Dailies Coverage of SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival, taking place at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland from June 21 to 27, 2010.

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