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Academics
May 9, 2016

SFC Professor Returns to Southern Roots for New Film

Prof. Augusta Palmer Launches Kickstarter for The Blues Society

St. Francis College Communication Arts Professor and Ft. Greene filmmaker Augusta Palmer returns to her southern roots for her latest film project, The Blues Society: A Documentary Film, which explores a collective of artists and musicians who shared their passion for Blues in the mid to late 1960's.

blues societysid selvidge

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Professor Palmer also lived for a short time in Memphis, Tennessee, but it was her father who provided the strongest connection to The Memphis Country Blues Society. Robert Palmer was an author, music critic, and member of the Society.

To complete the film, Palmer has begun collecting archival footage of the concerts the Blues Society produced and interviewed several members. She is also in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign to help raise money for continued production.

augusta palmer

Palmer's previous film, A is for Aye Aye, An Abecedarian Adventure also benefitted from Kickstarter. A is for Aye-Aye combines live-action and animation with vintage images selected from the New York Public Library (NYPL) Picture Collection to tell an alphabetical adventure. That movie was screened at film festivals across the country including the BAMkids Film Festival in February and was also on display as part of the centennial celebration at the NYPL.

In 1966, The Memphis Country Blues Society created their first festival with a fistful of dollars and what society member Randall Lyon called a "heroic passion" for the blues. This collective from the counterculture launched an integrated music festival featuring bluesmen like Bukka White and Furry Lewis playing alongside younger white folk musicians like John Fahey at the Overton Park Band Shell (now the Levitt Shell), a space where staff restrooms were still segregated and the KKK had held a rally just one week before. Even in the face of the violence following Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968, the Blues Society persevered. A recording from the 1968 festival became a major international release on Seymour Stein's Sire Records, and, the 1969 festival was broadcast nationally on Sounds of the Summer, hosted by Steve Allen. The Blues Society traces the journey of the festival from improvised local celebration to an event of national prominence.

About the filmmaker: Augusta Palmer is a filmmaker and scholar best known for The Hand of Fatima (2009), a feature documentary about music, mysticism, and family history and her first fiction film, A is for Aye-Aye: An Abecedarian Adventure. Her award-winning documentary and experimental video work has screened in national and international festivals, as well as at venues like New York's Anthology Film Archives. She is an Assistant Professor of Communication Arts at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. She is also co-founder of the newly launced St. Francis College Women's Film Festival.

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y.Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City's five boroughs and beyond.

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