Virginia Commonwealth University

Make it real.

SFF 2015: Screening Southern Music

Exploring Musical Traditions & Stereotypes in Popular Film

Founded in 2010 to explore how the distinctiveness of the South has been portrayed onscreen, the Southern Film Festival brings together films and those involved in their making with constructive commentary.

For more information, please contact

All events are free unless otherwise noted.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

5:30 p.m. Reception at VCU Campus, The Depot-814 W. Broad St.

6 p.m. Kathy Merlock Jackson, keynote lecture: “‘You Can’t Run Away from Trouble':  Song and Story in Disney’s Song of the South.”

Walt Disney’s first combined live-action/animated film is also known as the company’s “most notorious film” for its portrayal of subservient blacks and paternalistic whites on a Georgia plantation.  Kathy Merlock Jackson will discuss how the film, relegated to the Disney vault for the last twenty-five years, portrays Uncle Remus’s tales through songs such as “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” and characters like Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox.

**Prof. Merlock Jackson will incorporate clips from Song of the South into her presentation, but the film will not be shown in its entirety.**

VCU Campus, The Depot – 814 W. Broad St.

Friday, September 11, 2015

6:30-9 p.m. Heart o’ the Hills (1919; 87 min.)

Starring the renowned Mary Pickford, this silent film is a lively drama of family tensions, set amidst a battle over coal resources in the highlands of Kentucky.  The Hot Seats with accompany the film with a live musical performance that showcases their particular blend of Appalachian old-time music, bluegrass, ragtime, and good old rock and roll.  A panel discussion will follow.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Leslie Cheek Theater
Admission: $8 (VMFA and Art Deco Society of Virginia members $5); Free for VCU faculty, staff, and students with valid VCU ID presented at ticket desk.
Co-sponsored by the Art Deco Society of Virginia, as part of their Art Deco Weekend.  Immediately after the film, join Deco members at Grandstaff & Stein Book Sellers, Richmond’s own speakeasy located in Shockoe Bottom (2113 E. Main Street), for Prohibition-era cocktails, including “the Mary Pickford”!


Saturday, September 12, 2015

10 a.m.  King Creole (1958; 116 min.)

Stars Elvis Presley as an aspiring nightclub singer in the shady underworld of the French Quarter in New Orleans.  Filmed on location, Presley received a 60-day deferment from the U.S. Army to make the movie.   Highlights include Presley’s hit songs “Trouble” and “Hard-Headed Woman.”

Admission: $8, includes breakfast buffet; Drinks available for purchase

Sticky Rice-2232 West Main Street 

2 p.m.  Porgy and Bess (1959; 2 h 19 min.) 

Based on the 1935 opera of the same name by George Gershwin and the novel Porgy by the white author Dubose Heyward, Porgy and Bess tells the story of a legless beggar (Sidney Poitier), and his quest to win the love of the sultry and self-destructive Bess (Dorothy Dandridge).  Set in the poverty-stricken neighborhood of Charleston’s fictional Catfish Row, the film was largely denounced for its portrayal of African-Americans even as it propelled Poitier and Dandridge into box office sensations and renewed interest in the Gershwin hits “Summertime” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”  The film is currently not in circulation, and an archival copy will be shown.

Introduction by VCU History Professor Emilie Raymond and talk-back with VCU Anthropology Professor Christopher Brooks.

Grace Street Theater
Co-sponsored by the Virginia Opera

5 p.m.  We Shall Overcome (1989; 58 min.)

This documentary film narrated by Harry Belafonte traces the sources of the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” from the Sea Islands of South Carolina to the 1963 March on Washington.  The veteran civil rights activist Joan Trumpauer-Mulholland will introduce the film, and a live musical performance by the VCU Black Awakening Choir will follow.  Moderated by VCU History Professor Gregory Smithers.

Grace Street Theater