Coming to theatres today, Friday, June 2: TWO TRAINS RUNNIN’
Sam Pollard’s chronicle of the 1964 search for unsung blues performers made its bow at Full Frame earlier this year. Screenings also include New York Film Festival, New Orleans, Sheffield, Traverse City, Vancouver, Portland, DocuWest, deadCENTER, March on Washington, Hot Springs Doc, Woodstock, Austin, and Chicago, among other events.
As signaled by its title, Pollard’s project follows two parallel tracks: the pivotal activities taking place in Mississippi as part of Freedom Summer, an volunteer-driven effort to register African-American voters in the state; and a separate search by groups of blues aficionados for two lost pioneering African-American musicians, Skip James and Son House, in the same region. These two threads occasionally intersect – though the film perhaps overemphasizes the connections – but the bulk of the story is about the musician search and resultant revival of interest in their music for a new generation of, pointedly, largely white audiences, making an argument for the importance of this acknowledgement of the influence of African-American music on popular mainstream culture. Pollard employs animation and music as a welcome counterbalance to a sometimes too-heavy use of narration delivered by musician Common, helping to elevate the proceedings and making for compelling viewing.