“The Winding Stream” won’t be Beth Harrington’s first film to premiere at the renowned South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, but it will be the biggest.
That’s because the Vancouver documentary filmmaker’s work on country music icons will play to a much larger audience at the music and film showcase, which has been growing as relentlessly as Johnny Cash’s guitar rhythms on “Folsom Prison.”
“South by Southwest in the last two years or so has just exploded,” Harrington said. “And it isn’t just a film festival, it’s also a music festival, so it’s a better fit all around for me.”
Her film, about the Cash and Carter families, will debut at the event, which runs from March 7 to 16, then hit the film festival circuit this spring and summer, she said.
“Now that it’s got the South by Southwest stamp on it, it’s a lot easier to get it into other festivals,” Harrington said.
She also plans to show the film at the Cleveland International Film Festival in late March, and hopes to screen it closer to home later this spring.
“We’ll definitely do something here,” Harrington said. “It might be Portland to start, but we’ll definitely do something in Vancouver as well.”
Harrington got the idea for the documentary in 2001 when she was working with Roseanne Cash, singer-songwriter and eldest daughter of Johnny Cash, for a different documentary on women rockabilly singers.
Harrington asked if Roseanne Cash would introduce her to the family and narrate “The Winding Stream,” and she agreed.
The film is a history of the Carter family and how it merged with Johnny Cash and his family to become royalty within the country music world. It includes several interviews with members of both families, including one with Johnny Cash weeks before he died in 2003.
Harrington also interviewed several other musicians for the project, including George Jones, Kris Kristofferson and Sheryl Crow.
A debut at South by Southwest will also expose the film to many important players in that industry. Harrington is looking for a distributor for it, although she may end up going that route herself, she said.
“It means you get more access to film producers, distributors,” Harrington said. “And the crowd at the festival is really into Americana, which is a good demographic for us.”
Beyond that, Harrington is also working on a photography educational series for Oregon Public Broadcasting. That series is aimed at teachers and how to use photography in the classroom, she said.