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American Epic: The Big Bang
Directed by
Bernard MacMahon

USA/UK / 2016 / 110

New York Premiere

Screening Times and Venues:

Q&A Attendees
*subject to change:
Allison McGourty, Bernard MacMahon, Dan Gitlan
From the hills of Appalachia and the streets of Memphis, from the sanctified shout of the gospel church, to the coal mines of West Virginia and the cotton fields of Mississippi, music provided relief from tough lives and hard times. New rhythms were born in the echoes of stomping feet, the bite of pick-axes, and the ambling gait of tired mules. Almost a century later, the quest for singers remembered only as vague names on battered shellac discs brings those stories back to life.

Featuring: Jack White, Nas, Taj Mahal, The Carter Family, the Memphis Jug Band and Charlie Musselwhite, Charley Patton, Son House, Robert Lockwood, Honeyboy Edwards, Homesick James, The Rolling Stones, and Howlin Wolf.

More about American Epic
At the height of the Roaring Twenties, music scouts armed with cutting-edge recording technology set out across America to capture the unknown voices of everyday folk.

The recordings they made captured the countrys diversity artistically, ethnically, geographically, and economically. As told by music pioneers, their families and eyewitnesses to the era, we travel back in time to the 'Big Bang' of modern popular music, to the first time America heard itself. Everyday Americans heard their own music for the very first time, pure and un- adulterated this was a democratic revolution that would reverberate around the world.

In the words of the films narrator, Robert Redford, 'This is Americas greatest untold story.

Over a decade, two filmmakers from the UK, Bernard MacMahon and Allison McGourty, along with musician Duke Erikson, have been piecing together the great missing link (until now!) of Americas musical history, crisscrossing the USA in search of the first recorded music artists of the 1920s and their descendants. This is the first time this story has ever been told, and its also the last time this story can be told before everyone who was there is gone. The oldest person interviewed was a 103 year-old Hawaiian musician, with the filmmakers also capturing the last interviews with Robert Lockwood Jr., Homesick James and Honeyboy Edwards. Its astonishing. American Epic is a trilogy of films that explores how America was democratized by the advent of electrical sound recording in the 1920s. This is what created the Big Bang of Country, the Big Bang of RnB, and enabled a raft of other music to be recorded (including Hawaiian and Hopi!) that was a huge influence on musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin, to name a few.

This trilogy of films are a kaleidoscopic odyssey that shows how America first heard itself: Hopi Native Americans, Cajuns, African Americans, Latinos, and Hawaiians were all given a voice to express their lives and emotions through phonograph records for the first time in history. These deeply emotional stories are told through the voices of the people who were there and are brought to life through ten years of dedicated research, unearthing exceptional never-before-seen film footage, photographs and wonderful, revelatory music.

Bernard MacMahon is a British film director and writer living in Santa Monica, California. He is a member of the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America, the International Documentary Association, and is a co-founder of Lo-Max Films.

MacMahon is the director, writer and creator of the three films that comprise the critically acclaimed musical documentary trilogy "American Epic" and "The American Epic Sessions". These films have been selected to show at prestigious film festivals around the world, including the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, BFI London Film Festival, IDFA, Nashville, and Sydney International Film Festival, among others.

MacMahon is the co-author of a companion book to the films that will be published by Simon & Schuster and the producer of a series of historic music releases on Sony Music.

Narrator: Robert Redford
Executive Producer(s): T Bone Burnett, Robert Redford, Jack White
Producer(s): Allison McGourty, Duke Erikson, Bernard MacMahon, Bill Holderman, Adam Block
Director(s): Bernard MacMahon
Screenwriter(s): Bernard MacMahon, Allison McGourty, Duke Erikson, Bill Morgan 
Cinematographer(s): Richard Henkels, Vern Moen, Rochard Henkels, Art Adams,
Editor(s): Dan Gitlin



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