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Film Update

  • August 17, 2006

POV: What has been the reaction to the film?

Rogier Kappers: The reaction at screenings has been very good. In fact, sometimes the film screens at festivals where I'm not present, and I'll get emails from people who attended. I can ask them how it was and how many people attended. It's very funny. Because of the Internet, it's much easier to know what it was like.

As for reactions to the film, many people say that they are moved by the film. They're moved by the scenes where I go back to the places where Lomax traveled and meet these old people. They also feel that the filmmaker himself is important to the film and the subject, and that makes it moving as well. Viewers also feel happy in a certain way because of the music in the film. They feel involved and really get into the story.

POV: What's the inevitable question that you're always asked after a screening? Can you think of any memorable moments or incidents that made you rethink how you approached any aspects of the film?

Kappers: One interesting thing that came out of the screenings is that half of the audience says that there is too much of the older Lomax in the film. It's remarkable to see this division. Some people say they don't like to see this older Lomax, who was, of course, not in good shape. But other people are moved by his presence.

For me, it was very important to have the older Lomax in the film. He was so determined to record all this music, and completing the task was a way of finishing something. And, in the film, he was at the end of his life. The main theme of the film is transitoriness, and, being nearly dead himself, Lomax represents that theme.

Peter Kennedy, 1922-2006

British folklorist, filmmaker and musician Peter Kennedy (b. 1922) died on June 10, 2006. A close associate of Alan Lomax — and at times referred to as his British counterpart — Kennedy contributed to the Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music and hosted many seminal folk radio programs on BBC. Kennedy was interviewed by Rogier Kappers in "Lomax the Songhunter." More on Peter Kennedy's life and career can be found in this obituary from The Guardian.

POV: Do you think that most people who watch the film have heard about Lomax before? Or are they new to his life and work?

Kappers: Both types of people are watching the film. Of course, people who know of Lomax are especially interested. He has gotten better known in the past ten years because of Rounder Records' re-releases of his recordings. In fact, I would say that he's better known now than when he was alive.

POV: Can you tell us what you're working on now, and whether you've been influenced by your work on Lomax the Songhunter?

Kappers: I'm working on several new documentary films, but one which is relevant is a film on Hugh Tracy, who was also a folk song collector. He was an Englishman who was recording indigenous music and translating a lot of work from central and southern Africa between 1930 and 1960. There is a big archive of his work in South Africa. He was born in 1903 and he died in 1977, and I'm doing research for a film about this man. He and Lomax were the biggest folk song collectors in the world in the past century, and they knew each other and had corresponded with each other. Hugh Tracy also contributed to some of the records that Lomax edited. In terms of collecting traditional music, nobody did more than those two guys.





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I was thrilled to see Lomax finally getting his due, but puzzled that more attention wasn't paid to his struggles with the U.S. Government over his progressive ideas. My understanding is that he spent the McCarthy years in England to avoid being subpeonaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee. With the Patriot Act so much in the news, this would have been a very interesting angle.”


— Gonzaliz, Viewer