Monday, March 27, 2017

Labor South reading roundup - The dark side of "Detroit South" and still waiting on the Russia-2016 presidential election smoking gun

A couple of interesting articles appeared recently that are worth passing along (apologies if you can't access these links here. I'll keep trying, but you may just have to copy and paste to access):

The dark side of "Detroit South"

Peter Waldman's report, "Inside Alabama's Auto Jobs Boom: Cheap Wages, Little Training, Crushed Limbs", in Bloomberg puts the lie to the glorified tales about "Detroit South" that politicians and chambers of commerce want to tell us. A worthy read given the major union campaign taking place at the giant Nissan plant in Canton, Miss.


Now back to Russia and the 2016 presidential campaign

Interesting points by Stephen Cohen in Nation magazine recently that challenge MSNBC's constant drumbeat since its candidate lost. I don't like Trump, and I don't like Putin. However, I'm still waiting on the smoking gun regarding Russian hacking. Is it going to come? What I do know unequivocally is that the DNC actively worked to undermine Bernie Sanders' campaign, and that was reprehensible and I'm not forgetting it.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Bernie Sanders to Nissan workers in Mississippi: "The eyes of the country and the eyes of the world are on you!"

(Bernie Sanders in Canton, Miss., Saturday)

CANTON, Miss. - U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont told an estimated crowd of 3,000 Saturday that “the eyes of the country and the eyes of the world” are on Mississippi and the workers at Nissan’s giant plant here.

“All of our people deserve decent wages and decent benefits,” Sanders told the cheering crowd. “What this struggle is about is a struggle for decency.  … One worker has zero power, but when workers stand together, you have power.”

Sanders was one of several prominent speakers at the “March on Mississippi” in Canton Saturday, arguably the largest labor rally in the state’s history.  The crowd included labor leaders from France and Brazil, United Mine Workers members, and students from the University of Mississippi, Jackson State University, and Tougaloo College.

(To the right, Sanders in Canton talking about inequality in the United States. My apologies if the video cannot be accessed!)

They came to champion the right of the more than 5,000 workers at the mile-long Nissan plant in Canton to have a free, intimidation-free election to decide whether they want to join the United Auto Workers. Union leaders, local activists and workers have long complained of harassment against pro-union workers, the hiring of temporary workers at less wages and fewer benefits, unsafe working conditions, and the lack of a voice in company decisions on everything from working hours to the speed allowed on the assembly line.

Nissan employee Derick Whiting died recently after passing out at the worksite. Workers said they were forced to continue at the assembly line, a charge Nissan officials have denied. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently fined Nissan more than $20,000 for safety violations at the plant.

"They said we lied about what happened," 14-year veteran Nissan worker Travis Parks told the crowd. "I saw him lying on the floor."

Sanders said a company reporting more than $6 billion in profits and that pays its CEO $9 million a year could do better by its employees. “Share some of that wealth! … Our job is to tell corporate America they cannot have it all. What justice is about is allowing the freedom to workers to vote their conscience. If you stand up to the power of corporations in Mississippi, it’s a huge vote of confidence to the nation.”

UAW President Dennis Williams also told the crowd of the importance of what happens in Canton to the nation. “This is about you raising your fist. It’s about solidarity, empowering people, a movement. The only path to have economic justice is through collective bargaining.”

Sierra Club President Aaron Mair agreed. “If organized labor fails here, we all fail. You cannot make America great again on the back of degraded labor.”

The organizing campaign in Canton has been underway for 12 years now, beginning with a small group of UAW organizers, local activists, workers and clergy. Labor South was there at the beginning, attending those early meetings as the sole media representative for a long time.

Nissan workers earn comparatively good wages for blue-collar workers in Mississippi. However, many have complained of going years without pay raises, poor working conditions, arbitrary rules changes, and having to endure anti-union videos and other pressures against joining a union.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Actor Danny Glover: Come to Saturday, March 4, rally in Canton, Miss., to support Nissan workers' right to organize

(Actor Danny Glover speaking to students at the University of Mississippi)

OXFORD, Miss. – I’ll never forget Danny Glover as the drifter Moze in the 1984 film Places in the Heart. It was a Depression-era story of a widowed mother in the South trying to keep her children and save her farm with the help of Moze and a blind war veteran.

I loved that story because it reminded me of my grandmother, Minnie “Mama” Atkins, herself a rural Southern widow during the Great Depression who had to fend off local authorities wanting her to give up her four small children.

Later I saw Glover as Joshua Deets in the 1989 television series Lonesome Dove. He was one of my favorites among the large cast of characters in that 19th century cattle drive tale that my family watched religiously, episode after episode.

I never imagined I would eventually get to meet Glover, not so much as an actor but as a champion of working folks and their rights to organize and have some control over their lives at the workplace.

Glover was here in Oxford recently to rally students and citizens to come to Canton, Mississippi, March 4 and join U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in the “March on Mississippi” against voter suppression and for workers’ rights, particularly in the ongoing union organizing effort at the giant Nissan plant in Canton.

He told the crowd of more than 100 a story about legendary actor, singer and human rights activist Paul Robeson, who suffered the blacklist and widespread scorn because of his political advocacy. Asked if he regretted anything in his life, Robeson said, “`There’s not one thing I’d change in my life. It’s about the journey.’”

Young people today would do well to think about their own journey in life, said Glover, 70, whose labor advocacy and human rights efforts have earned him an international reputation. They need to listen to the stories of those around them, particularly the shared humanity of those who work hard and play by the rules yet whose rights as humans are constricted by the powerful.

“I think about the journey. Over 50 years ago as a student, I didn’t know where that journey was going to take me. … You have an opportunity to look at the stories and make them part of your story. “

In Canton, thousands of men and women work at an automobile plant that was built with the help of $1.4 billion in tax breaks and other incentives provided by the poorest state in America. While they earn good wages in comparison to other Mississippians, they live in fear that they’ll lose their jobs due to injuries in a workplace recently fined $20,000 by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration for poor safety conditions.

They see their jobs increasingly threatened by management’s hiring of temporary workers who receive fewer benefits and lower wages.

They worry that reasons will be found to get rid of them if they show support for joining a union despite federal laws that prohibit such intimidation by management.  For more than a decade, a community-wide effort has been underway to get Nissan to desist in the kind of voter suppression that makes a free union election impossible.

“The South has changed,” said Glover, a native of San Francisco whose family came from Georgia. “The South I heard about in 1964, it’s not the same South. The Civil Rights Movement opened up the South.”

Yet, he said, the fight for workers’ rights in the South continues.

“The rights of workers have been curtailed, stepped upon,” he said, adding that those rights will continue to be curtailed “without a union, a place where workers can go to collectively bargain, to have a conversation.”

Glover, who also would participate in the 14th Annual Oxford Film Festival while in town, said it was his first trip to Oxford, but he has come to Mississippi several times over the years to bring attention to the cause of the Nissan workers in Canton, 80 percent of whom are African American.

“When I see people win, they stand a little taller,” he told Nissan workers during a visit in 2012.  “I want people to win. People lifting themselves up. I’m always blown away by that.”

Glover told them that he came from a union family. His parents were postal workers who were also active in the Civil Rights Movement. “I had health care all my life because the union created the situation where I could have health care.”

He also told the workers something that was echoed during his more recent visit to Oxford. “You are all part of a much larger legacy,” he said. “Your story is going to resonate.”

This column also appeared in the Jackson Free Press in Jackson, Mississippi.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Feeling politically homeless with Trump's cabinet "deplorables" and a Democratic Party in disarray / Finding hope in those on the front lines

OXFORD, Miss. – It’s hard not to feel a little politically homeless these days. I’m thinking of that old folk song, “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.”

I see the cabinet choices of President Trump, and if there ever was a group of “deplorables”, this is it: A Treasury nominee whose nickname is “Foreclosure King”; a Labor nominee who prefers robots to workers because they don’t want vacations or pay raises; a Commerce nominee who sees the “1 Percent” as victims and who helped transfer the U.S. textile industry to Asia.

Then I see this same president sign an executive order withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, an Obama-supported secret deal that would have allowed private corporations to sue nations that pass environment or worker-friendly laws inhibiting their profits. Trump has also given notice that he may be targeting NAFTA, a similar bad deal for workers.

Those are good, long-overdue actions that neo-liberal, corporate friendly Democrats like Bill and Hillary Clinton would have never done despite candidate Hillary’s shallow assurance she had switched from supporter to critic of TPP.

On the Democratic Party side, I see a party truly in shambles with devastating losses not only in Washington, D.C., but also in legislative halls and governor’s mansions across the nation. A time for some good soul-searching and change in leadership and direction, right? Not so fast. A lot of the same old faces are still around, including 76-year-old U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Then there’s U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., in the news recently after suffering a “Twitter Attack” from the president, who essentially told Lewis to mind the business of his district instead of telling everybody Trump was not a “legitimate president.”

Lewis is a bona fide civil rights hero, but let’s face it. He started that fight with Trump. Furthermore, Lewis diminished himself in my view during the campaign primaries when he questioned Bernie Sanders’ civil rights credentials. Sanders was an activist in Chicago who was even arrested for his pro-civil rights protests. Where was Lewis’ preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton, back in those days? Besides, one warrior doesn’t attack a fellow warrior for political expediency.

I know Democrats who applauded U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., when he sanctimoniously went after Trump’s Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson, during confirmation hearings for not declaring Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal”. This is the same Marco Rubio who hired “The Vulture”, hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, as his campaign finance chairman during the presidential election. Singer successfully soaked financially strapped Argentina for nearly $5 billion on a $50 million investment, helping to spiral that country into economic chaos.

By the way, for all his grandstanding, Rubio ended up supporting Tillerson’s nomination.

Here in Mississippi, the Republican takeover in Washington, D.C., has emboldened state GOP leaders like Gov. Phil Bryant and his kindred conservatives in the Legislature. These so-called fiscal conservatives—that description becomes a joke when the issue is corporate largesse—continue to squeeze the state budget, underfunding roads and highways, the state trauma care system.

Now Bryant says it’s time for the state to consider instituting a lottery, a way to raise needed funds without raising taxes. It’s a lot of baloney. As with casinos, a state lottery would just provide another excuse for lawmakers to cut taxes on corporations and the rich while letting the rest of us poor suckers spend our money in the hope of getting the lucky number that will make us rich!

The real hope out there are the activists on the front lines working hard for the people, not themselves or their friends, activists like Bill Chandler and his team at the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance. They’ll be fighting at least a half-dozen or more anti-immigrant bills this legislative session that echo Trump’s anti-immigrant rants.

These people-serving activists include the United Auto Workers and students at Tougaloo College, Jackson State University, and the University of Mississippi who’ll be leading the “March on Mississippi” March 4 in Canton to protest voter suppression efforts and the failure of Nissan to provide an intimidation-free atmosphere for union-sympathetic workers at its Canton plant.

In fact, activists as far away as Nashville, Atlanta and Greensboro, N.C., were already on the streets in January protesting the conditions at the Nissan plant. Of course, protesters of all stripes have been taking to the streets ever since Trump’s election, pledging their support for women’s rights and other issues.

What the populist revolts of both Trump’s campaign and the Bernie Sanders campaign in the Democratic Party showed was a deep revulsion against the political establishment. People indeed do want their country back. Like me, a lot of them feel kind of homeless these days, something the political establishment has rarely felt.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Still no proof of Russian email hacking but plenty proof of DNC skullduggery

 (Vladimir Putin)

OXFORD, Miss. – Back in the summer of 1992, just months after the failed coup that led to the fall of communism and Boris Yeltsin’s rise to leadership in a new post-Soviet Russia, I traveled with my late wife Marilyn to Moscow and met Roman Fiodorov.

Fiodorov was our bespectacled, sharp-witted guide through the ancient churches and towers of the Kremlin. He liked to tell a good-if-sometimes-grim joke as he regaled us with tales of Ivan the Terrible and Rasputin.

“Ah, you Americans,” he said at one point. “Two people get hurt in a car accident, and it’s front-page news. Here in Russia, hundreds get sent off to Siberia, and it’s not even in the newspaper.”

 The Cold War between the United States and Russia was finally thawing. Americans and Russians could share in a little self-deprecating humor. The candle-lit, Icon-filled Orthodox churches in Moscow were filling with people able to show their faith and belief openly and without fear.

Today, as the cold, wintry drifts of January bring the new Trump Era in America into view, I wonder at the Cold War nostalgia that the 2016 presidential election seems to have unearthed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants President-elect Donald Trump to be his personal “lap dog,” charges John Podesta, who chaired Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign. He’s echoing similar comments by New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof.

Of course, Podesta is referring to alleged Russian hacks into the Democratic National Committee’s email system that revealed how the DNC secretly worked to scuttle the primary campaign of Clinton’s chief Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders.

Disgraced former DNC Interim Chair and television commentator Donna Brazile, who resigned her post after revelations that she slipped questions to primary candidate Clinton to give her an edge during televised debates, now calls herself “one of the main victims of the Russian attacks.”

Both Democrats and Republicans are planning further investigation into the matter. The CIA, FBI and NSA have publicly concluded that Putin and Russia were the culprits. President Obama ousted 35 Russian diplomats to show his anger. U.S. Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who would have put Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency in 2008, has called Russia’s alleged hacking “an act of war.”

Only one problem threatens to undermine this new Cold War mentality: Not the CIA or anyone else has yet produced any concrete evidence that Putin or the Russians indeed did the alleged hacking. Even the agencies’ much-ballyhooed report released to the public after their meeting with Trump this month included no specific evidence. Julian Assange, whose WikiLeaks published the emails, says that the Russians were not his organization’s source. An Assange  associate says no hacking even took place, that “an insider”, not a Russian, provided WikiLeaks with the information.

The rising Cold War-like hysteria reached ridiculous proportions in late December when it was determined that the supposed hacking by Russians into the state of Vermont’s electronic grid—an offense that prompted Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, to call Putin “one of the world’s leading thugs”—never happened. The Washington Post reported a story that had no foundation!
What baffles me about the controversy over the leaked emails—regardless of their source—is that it shows Trump was partially right when he claimed the system was “rigged” during the campaign. He was wrong in believing it was rigged against him. The system was actually rigged against Bernie Sanders and any other challenger to the Clinton Machine within the Democratic Party.

Certainly neither Russia nor any other nation should be interfering with the American political process. Is Putin happy Trump won? Sure he is. Candidate Clinton talked about imposing a no-fly zone over Syria, something that likely would have put the United States in a direct military confrontation with Russia.

Still, whoever gave WikiLeaks that information did the American public a service. Voters needed to know that Democratic Party leaders were putting the lie to their party’s name by trying to make sure they, and not the people, got to choose who the general election candidate would be.

Putin is no angel, far from it, and a sadness continues to underlie Roman Fiodorov’s joke because there’s likely still truth to it.

When Trump takes office this month, he’ll bring with him people like his choice for secretary of state, Exxon Mobile Chief Executive Rex W. Tillerson, a businessman who has worked closely with Putin and the Russians for years. What that portends for the environment as well as for relations with China, NATO and Europe is uncertain and even unsettling, like many of Trump’s cabinet choices.

Still, that doesn’t take the stink off the Democratic Party’s near self-destruction in the 2016 election, where its loss of the White House only compounds its loss of Congress, plus 900 legislative seats and two-thirds of governors’ offices over the past eight years.

The current leaked email controversy actually reeks of a “lap dog” mainstream media more than willing to promote an inside campaign to shift attention away from Democratic Party skullduggery to Russia and Vladimir Putin.

And it’s also hypocrisy. Consider the United States’ long history of mixing itself into the elections of other sovereign nations—from Iran to South Vietnam to Chile to Nicaragua to Libya to Honduras to the Ukraine, where a democratically elected president was ousted with U.S. complicity in 2014 with no regard whatsoever how neighboring Russia might feel about that situation.

“Systems are different, but people are the same, “ Roman Fiodorov told us Americans back in 1992. “People just want a (normal) life.”

He was right, and the fact that “systems” and politics often make that difficult is no joke.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Clintonism has nearly destroyed the Democratic Party. Only a revolution from within can lead to its resurrection

This column, which ran recently in the Jackson Free Press in Jackson, Mississippi, is a follow-up and elaboration on an earlier posting in which I declared “Clintonism is dead.” Clintonism—and President Obama’s embrace of neoliberalism was a continuation of it--has nearly destroyed the Democratic Party. The current fiasco—and President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet choices thus far show how much a fiasco this is—brings to mind the 1994 GOP takeover of Congress during Bill Clinton’s first term as president. This is worse, however. Much worse. The Democratic Party’s loss of vision, its Clinton-inspired rootlessness, helped put us in this mess. Only a revolution within the party can lead to its resurrection.

OXFORD, Miss. – I was surrounded by staunch Democrats who knew my leftist leanings and that I wanted Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination for president. The table between us was laden with drinks and food, but the air was thick with politics.

One by one, they made the case how it had to be Hillary Clinton, not a socialist-turned-Democrat like Sanders. One of them was a former Texas congressman with whom I had rarely before disagreed.

“Tell me you’ll vote for Hillary if she gets the nomination,” more than one asked.

It was the pressing question of the late-season Democratic primaries: Will Bernie’s troops support Hillary? I resisted answering long into the evening, but the pressure—or those drinks—finally wore me down. “Sure,” I said, “I’ll vote for her.”

And cast my vote I did—holding my nose--for a seasoned veteran politician backed by deep-pocketed financiers and a Democratic Party establishment that did its best to scuttle Sanders’ primary challenge, and she lost against a foot-in-the-mouth firebrand with zero political experience.

On the morning after election night, having gone to bed before the final results were in, my wife Suzanne woke me with an ominous, “Joe, he won.” For 20 minutes, I tried to rouse myself into the brave new world of the Trump era. It wasn’t easy.

Within 48 hours, I was reading post-Apocalyptic eulogies to the America that was before Nov. 8.

“America died on Nov. 8, not with a bang and a whimper, but at its own hand via electoral suicide,” award-winning journalist and author Neal Gabler wrote. “We the people chose a man who has shredded our values, our morals, our compassion, our tolerance, our decency, our sense of common purpose, our very identity.”

Gabler wasn’t finished. “Who knew that tens of millions of white men felt so emasculated by women and challenged by minorities?”

It was ridiculous, handwringing, nearly hysterical comments like these that finally cleared by head.

Look, I’ve got no illusions about Donald Trump. His promises to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure at the same time he’s going to oversee a massive tax cut to business and the wealthy ring about as true as Clinton’s election-season conversion on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.  His treatment of his own workers and contractors put the lie to his self-proclaimed role as champion of the working stiff.

And yes, many of those who voted for Trump are the same racists, neo-Nazis and misogynists who’ve crawled out from under their rocks since election day to taunt and threaten minorities and women.

Still, Gabler and many of the anti-Trump post-election day protesters are wrong when they issue a blanket indictment of all Trump voters, millions of whom voted out of an economic desperation that Clintonite neoliberals ignored for too long.  Those voters are not bigots. Many of them supported Obama in 2012, only to see him buddy up to the same Wall Street insiders and lousy trade deals that were part of the Clinton world. New Yorker magazine reported just before this year’s election that Wall Street executive Thomas R. Nides was well positioned for a place in President Hillary Clinton’s inner circle and possibly as her chief of staff.

At least Trump offered the illusion of change.

Back in the 1990s, Bill Clinton looked and talked like a progressive, a politician who cared for the working stiff, the marginalized. Yet, as writer Ben Dickenson has pointed out, “every budget of his administration instigated Reaganite tax cuts, draconian law and order policies, privatization, and tens of billions of dollars on military spending.”

With Hillary’s strong support, Bill Clinton “cut welfare spending, gave tax breaks to corporations and established trade agreements to carve up the world for US business. Promised health reform was abandoned, civil liberties pegged back, and race issues were not addressed.”

Cornel West, in his post-election analysis in The Guardian, summed it up this way: “Trump’s election was enabled by the neoliberal policies of the Clintons and Obama that overlooked the plight of our most vulnerable citizens.”

One of the great ironies of this election is that the Clintons’ “New Democrat” path was initially charted by the now-defunct Democratic Leadership Council as a means to recapture the white vote, particularly in the South. The wrongness of that path became crystal clear on November 8 of this year.     

The saddest news from November 8, however, is that working folks likely will still be looking for a leader four years from now, a leader who truly wants to help and this time means it from the bottom of his or her heart.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Indie Memphis: Exploring new ways to tell stories in film, and blurring the line between features and documentaries

(Werner Herzog in 2009. Photo: Nicolas Genin)

MEMPHIS - The German filmmaker Werner Herzog, whose films range from his remake of the early horror classic Nosferatu to his documentary about wild man actor Klaus Kinski My Best Fiend, once had this to say about feature films versus documentaries:

“For me, there is no clear distinction between so-called documentaries and feature films. The boundary is always blurred. … For me, it has always mattered how truth is constituted in images or in the cinema.”

It’s an idea that goes back to the 1930s when the Worker’s Film and Photo League (known as the FPL and recently featured in a Turner Classic Movies showing) and later Nykino and Frontier Films produced film that showed the harsh reality of the Great Depression in a way that Hollywood couldn’t or wouldn’t. Eventually Nykino and Frontier Films pushed the boundaries that separated fiction and nonfiction by incorporating dramatic elements into real-life montages.

Documentaries today are rediscovering some of those old truths articulated by FPL, Nykino and Frontier Films founders Leo Hurwitz, Ralph Steiner and others, according to a panel of current documentary filmmakers at last month’s Indie Memphis film festival in Memphis, Tenn.

“What’s exciting in film now is everything is up for grabs,” said Tom Yellin, co-founder and president of The Documentary Group. In a reference to acting philosopher Constantin’s Stanislavski’s famous concept of the invisible wall separating stage and audience, Yellin said modern-day filmmakers are “breaking the fourth wall.”

“Some of our earliest documentaries were staged,” said Lisanne Skyler, a New York-based screenwriter. “We’re doing it more creatively, dynamically.”

The panelists noted that documentary makers today are breaking away from the “talking heads” style of filmmakers like Ken Burns and incorporating various dramatic elements, animation, and other techniques to tell their stories in fresh and exciting ways. “Bringing animation to a real story can get to a larger truth,” Skyler said.

“It doesn’t mean the old techniques don’t have value,” Yellin said.

“A documentary is about real people,” award-winning documentary filmmaker Jamila Wignot said. “You’re trying to be honest about the real truth of a person. The line is absolutely murky.”

“I come from old school journalism,” Yellin said. “It relies on the integrity of the people making the film about crossing the line. Everyone seeks truth.”

“When I shoot fiction, I make it like a documentary,” Skyler said. “Maybe there’s just more room in documentary to evolve. I’ve come to appreciate a well-structured story. I think documentary has become more personal (with) more expressionistic ways to tell a story.”

“It’s a question of authenticity,” Yellin said. “Character, character development, three-act structures, story arc, all are important in documentary today. … Just because there’s good information, it doesn’t mean there’s a good story.”

I thought about these comments as I listened to the panel and recalled how many of the great film noir of the 1940s and 1950s—The House on 92nd Street, Call Northside 777, The Naked City, and The Wrong Man—were told in documentary style although they dealt with fictional characters.

(Mike McCarthy)

Documentary film was a highlight of the 2016 Indie Film Festival in November. Noted Memphis filmmaker Mike McCarthy, whose credits include feature films like Cigarette Girl, offered his documentary Destroy Memphis, an 11-year project about the ultimately unsuccessful community effort to “Save Libertyland” and its Zippin Pippin ride in Memphis.

“Why not preserve the memory of Elvis Presley in any form or fashion?” McCarthy asked about the amusement park and ride that the famous singer used to enjoy. Despite an intense community-led campaign, the park was ultimately shut down, however, and the ride disassembled and reconstructed in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

(The Rev. John Wilkins, a blues and gospel performer featured in I Am The Blues, performing at Indie Memphis)

Daniel Cross’ I Am The Blues was another featured documentary that told the story of today’s blues artists in the Deep South and their dogged allegiance to an art form that laid the foundations of jazz and rock music.

Another highlight of the festival was Kallen Esperian: Vissi D’arte, a film directed by Steve Ross about Memphis’ own great soprano, Kallen Esperian, who sang with Pavarotti and Domingo before her career tumbled amid a variety of personal battles.

(To the right, Kallen Esperian at the Indie Memphis film festival)

None of these films veered too far from traditional documentary filmmaking. However, they did what all good films do. They sought and expressed a truth in compelling ways. In other words, they told a good story.