What does the first American song sound like? A new documentary from This Land Films explores the surprising roots of American music during the film’s debut at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
The first feature-length documentary from This Land Films, This May Be The Last Time will have its world premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, the Sundance selection committee announced today. The Festival will premiere 119 films from a total of more than ten thousand films submitted.
This May Be the Last Time is a documentary about Native American music from Oklahoma-based filmmakers Sterlin Harjo and Matt Leach, to be released by This Land Films. The film focuses on the ceremonial music of the Creek Nation dating back to the early 19th century that combines Creek, Scottish, and African influences. In the film, historian Hugh Foley posits that the Creek hymn may be the first true American music due to its multicultural composition. The film tells stories of members of the Creek Nation and the influence of music.
“It’s an important story for not just Native Americans, but for all Americans,” says Vincent LoVoi, the film’s executive producer. “It shows us that the roots of all American music—blues, jazz, rock and roll—go deeper than we originally thought.”
The film is also the most personal film to date for director Sterlin Harjo, whose past work includes Barking Water and Four Sheets to the Wind, both of which focus on themes of contemporary Native American culture. In This May Be the Last Time, Harjo explores the mystery of his grandfather’s death and the role Native song played in his family’s history of grief. The film follows a musical thread that dates back hundreds of years to the Trail of Tears, missionaries, and slave songs.
“Creek hymns aren’t just historically important,” says Harjo, “they are intrinsic to our culture. In times of tragedy and hardship, we often turn to hymns as a way of seeking emotional and spiritual support.”
As important as the Creek hymns are to American history and culture, their survival is in jeopardy.
“In order to make this film, we had to gain special access to the few remaining churches that perform these hymns,” says the film’s producer, Matt Leach.
This May Be the Last Time will have its world premiere on Sunday, January 19, at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. It is the first film from This Land Films, a subsidiary of This Land Press media company, which publishes This Land. For updates, stay tuned to ThisLandPress.com.