Tuesday, March 4, 2014

SXSW film preview: Take Me to the River

If you love music, you will love Take Me to the River. While the documentary focuses on the evolution of the music scene in Memphis, it parallels the evolution of American music in general. 

As I watched how the generation that invented soul music is leaving this world behind, I couldn't help but think about how that's happening in all genres of our culture. A generation that truly knew what it was to struggle is rapidly dwindling. It's being replaced by a
self-indulging generation of entitlement. A generation that needs to be schooled. Badly.

This was a generation that didn't have the crutch of pro tools or samples. They didn't know inst-fame and paying their dues meant more than spending a couple of years at open mics. These artist were original. 100%. Days later,  I'm still thinking about the statement one of the old timers said. 

You keep sampling, you won't have anything left to sample from.

Luckily, the music of the masters remains, as do the stories. And luckily, there are people like Director Martin Shore here to tell them.

After the pre-SXSW screening I attended, Shore told me, "Music is our cultural gift to the world and we should be proud."

Damn straight.

In a nutshell, Take Me to the River tells the story of the inter-generational and inter-racial musical influence of Memphis in the face of pervasive discrimination and segregation. Bringing multiple generations of Mississippi Delta musicians together, viewers follow the creative process of recording a historic new album, to re-imagine the utopia of racial, gender and generational collaboration of Memphis in its heyday. 

The film features Terrence Howard, William Bell, Snoop Dog, Mavis Staples, Otis Clay, Lil P-Nut, Charlie Musselwhite, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Yo Gotti, Bobby Rush, Frayser Boy and The North Mississippi All-Stars.

As if telling the story wasn't gift enough, over 75% of the profits received from the film will be donated to the following Memphis music organizations:
The Soulsville Foundation Operating
The Stax Music Academy
The Soulsville Charter School
The Stax Museum of American Music Soul
We asked Shore to answer some questions about the film, as well as a few of our Totally Texan questions. 


What was your inspiration for this film?

My inspiration for the film was to shine the international spotlight back on Memphis. To show people where their music actually came from and what influenced and inspired the world's popular music as we know it today. And lastly, and most importantly, to show Americans that we have given the world a very important cultural jewel; popular music. All of us can be proud of that.

You managed to get a lot of creatively inspiring people together. When did you start putting this film together and how long did it take to actually shoot?

Shooting almost two years and the post process took over a year. The first shoot date was May 2010, and the project was cemented with the first session deal at SXSW in March 2010.

This is your directorial debut, how did the experience differ from producing music and film?

I think directing makes you all of those things, meaning you're a producer of music, you are a producer of film, and that you are part of the audience too. Being a director you are everything in film which is the ultimate art. You are pulling the strings on everything, as opposed to just focusing on one thing. Being a director is being everything.

What’s the one thing you want people to leave this film feeling or thinking about? 

See above for the inspiration. Secondly, if we all are able to communicate, and cooperate with each other, we are then able to collaborate and make beautiful things and solve big problems. And the last thing would be the ultimate joy and power of the celebration of music.

If you could resurrect one musician to make another musical history documentary about, who would it be?

That's sort of a loaded question because obviously you would want to talk to iconic musicians who left very early. Maybe Gram Parsons.

What are you most looking forward to experiencing at SXSW?

The celebration and fellowship with the audience. And appreciating and enjoying all the other great art, music and film.

And finally, our Totally Texan questions:

Have you ever been to Austin before? If so, do you have some favorite spots?

Yes, in fact I used to live in Austin part time. Some of my favorite spots are Ski Shores, Emma Long Park, Antones, Continental Club.

What Texas food are you most looking forward to eating in Austin?

TexMex of course!

What is your favorite movie and/or TV show shot in Texas?

Born on the Fourth of July

Who is your favorite Texas musician? 

There are so many of them! Almost impossible to pick a favorite. Texas Tornados/Augie Meyers. Double Trouble. Albert Collins. Buddy Holly. Freddie King. Willie Nelson. Los Lonely Boys. There are just so many.

What song would you call "Totally Texas?"

I know this might not be the typical answer but I love the song Heaven by Los Lonely Boys. Reminds me of everything great in Texas.

See Take Me to the River at

 Topfer Theatre at ZACH 

4:30- 6:05PM on Tuesday, March 11.