DECEMBER 10, 2013 BY REBECCA LAUCK CLEARY
Joe York is accustomed to traveling the country making documentary films, but he recently toured six cities in nine days as a recipient of a South Arts grant to screen and discuss his film “Pride & Joy.”
A feature-length documentary about Southern food in all its regional variations – from beef barbecue in Texas to wild honey in Florida – “Pride & Joy” provides an introduction to how foodways offer insights on the region’s complex history and bright future.
The South Arts Southern Circuit brings the best of independent film to communities across the South. Audiences have seen more than 200 films and have engaged filmmakers in post-screening discussions in more than 50 communities across the Southern U.S. The tour offers audiences a way to connect them with independent filmmakers.
York’s circuit included three cities in Georgia (Suwannee, Hapeville and Madison) and three cities in Louisiana (Lake Charles, Alexandria and Lafayette).
“Whether we had 40 people or we had 150 people, the thing that was impressive was the amount of planning that went into it. It was perfectly coordinated,” said York, a senior producer at the Southern Documentary Project (formerly Media and Documentary Projects), an institute of the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture. “I don’t know if I have ever been a part of something that was so unbelievably well-organized.”
After the film was shown, audiences enthusiastically participated in a question-and-answer session.
“A normal question-and-answer session is maybe 10 or 15 minutes, but we were having question-and-answer sessions for almost an hour,” York said. “So as a filmmaker, it’s really fun to engage with audiences that are as engaged as the Southern Circuit audiences were.”
South Arts has coordinated the circuit since 2006, and more than 100 films and filmmakers toured the circuit since it has been a part of South Arts programming.
“Southern Circuit received hundreds of submissions for the 2013-14 circuit tour,” said senior program director Teresa Hollingsworth. “‘Pride & Joy’ was a great fit for circuit audiences. It’s incredibly relatable and a wonderful celebration of Southern food traditions.”
This season, 18 filmmakers and their films went on tour to 23 communities for 138 screenings, which are funded in part by participation fees and the National Endowment for the Arts.
“Colleges and universities, arts centers, indie-film presenters, museums, etc., apply to participate as screening partners,” Hollingsworth said. “Organizations are selected based on community interest in independent film and their commitment to developing indie film audiences.”
While at first York wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, he quickly got the hang of it. Not only was he screening “Pride & Joy,” but he was performing community outreach and even spoke to the 4-H club at the high school in Madison, Ga.
“I also spoke to a group of freshman from the University of Georgia who were doing a class about Southern culture and history,” York said.
York knew it would be an interesting, whirlwind trip, and he enjoyed the cultural outreach aspect, as he represented the center, the Southern Foodways Alliance and SouthDocs.
“We are really interested in sharing these films in communities where people are hungry for this kind of material, even if they aren’t on the beaten path,” York said.
York was named Food Filmmaker of the Year at the New York Food Film Fest in 2009 and has also won awards at the Oxford Film Festival, the Chicago Food Film Fest and the Crossroads Film Festival in Jackson.