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Directed by Bernard MacMahon

United Kingdom, United States 2016 82 mins.

Presented by Robert Redford, T Bone Burnett and Jack White, and produced for the BBC’s Arena and PBS, MacMahon and a host of co-producers piece together the extraordinary 1920s story of record companies leaving the big city to tour America’s backroads and capture for the first time the raw musical expressions of rural cultures. These field recordings, initially aimed for the rural markets from which they came, democratized music and gave a voice to the most marginalized demographics in the nation. Following the trail to rediscover the families whose music was recorded, and whose legacy has left a lasting impact on popular music, American Epic reveals the remarkable lives of these seminal musicians through previously unseen film footage, unpublished photographs, and exclusive interviews with some of the last living witnesses to that era. In this special advance screening of one of the three episodes in the series, the filmmakers travel deep into the Hopi nation and its musical traditions, explore the origins of Hawaiian slack-key guitar, discover the hybrid of cultures expressed in Tejano music, head through bayou country and its Cajun music, and end up in Avalon, Missisippi to explore the history of the delta blues and its innovator, Mississippi John Hurt.

The Northwest Film Center recognizes and honors the Indigenous peoples of this region on whose ancestral lands the museum now stands. These include the Willamette Tumwater, Clackamas, Kathlemet, Molalla, Multnomah and Watlala Chinook Peoples and the Tualatin Kalapuya who today are part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and many other Native communities who made their homes along the Columbia River. We also want to recognize that Portland today is a community of many diverse Native peoples who continue to live and work here. We respectfully acknowledge and honor all Indigenous communities—past, present, future—and are grateful for their ongoing and vibrant presence.