A four-part film documentary on labor and activism will feature the late Nevada City folksinger/storyteller U. Utah Phillips as narrator, using excerpts from his national radio series, “Loafer’s Glory.”
Film director/producer Charlie Hall — a Nevada County native — says audio from Phillips’ 100-episode KVMR 89.5 FM shows, produced at the station between 1997 and 2003, will serve as an introduction and narration to each film.
“An America rarely seen will unfold, told in Utah’s voice as heard on his radio show,” Hall said with a smile.
The ambitious project — called “Tales of the Long Memory” — will be filmed in Nevada City, Santa Cruz, New York City, Detroit, Chicago, Seattle and Madison, Wisconsin. Shooting has already begun on the first movie, “Bread and Roses,” about the labor movement.
“As he grew up, Charlie was a friend of Utah and I,” explained Phillips’ wife, Joanna Robinson. “He’s very intelligent, committed and talented, and I trust him to be faithful to Bruce (Utah)’s core beliefs.”
According to Robinson, using excerpts of Phillips’ “Loafer’s Glory” radio commentary “couldn’t be a better idea. It’s brilliant.”
Hall, with his wife and co-producer Bevin Bell-Hall, will be in town next week working on the project.
A benefit to raise funds for the films will be from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Matteo’s Public, 300 Commercial St., Nevada City. The bar and restaurant will contribute 15 percent of all sales, including take out, to the project.
Phillips’ son, Brendan, will perform some of his father’s songs, along with Bodie Wagner and special guest Homer Wills, during part of the evening.
Filmmaker Hall says his inspiration was natural.
“Growing up in Nevada County, you couldn’t help but hear all the lore about Utah,” he said.
And Hall says he found Hospitality House — Western Nevada County’s homeless facility whose co-founders include Phillips and Robinson — “a natural place to go and volunteer my time.”
“The way guests there were treated was a different, more positive way to look at the world,” according to Hall.
He also became “enamored” with the “Loafer’s Glory” series and sees the resulting films “as if we’re watching the TV version of the radio show.”
“On radio, Utah was able to take it so much farther (than on stage),” Hall recalled. “He was able to expand on so many things, and it had a certain equilibrium.”
In addition to the hour about labor, the other films will be about poverty and homelessness (“Utah’s House”), justice (“My Body Is A Ballot”) and peace (“Against The Next War”).
“Utah’s life is part of the experience of countless American activists and organizers who have worked for justice,” Hall said. “Their story constitutes the long memory, which Utah called ‘the most radical idea in America’”
A “teaser” for the film series features local music artists Paul Kamm and Eleanore McDonald’s version of Phillips’ song, “Ship’s Gonna Sail.”
“It shows we’re not cutting off the past,” added Hall. “It shows that these themes of Utah’s are something we’ve been working on generation after generation.”
After studying anthropology in college, Hall found he’d “fallen in love with documentaries.” That led to his first feature with Bell-Hall, “The Wamm Movie,” about a medical marijuana collective. The film received the Audience Award at the Santa Cruz Film Festival in 2010.
“One real important aspect of ‘Tales from the Long Memory’ is that it’ll be free to everyone,” Hall continued. “We want to have community screenings, free downloads so you can make your own DVDs and give it to friends.”
Information about the film and fundraising information is available at Facebook.com/LongMemory and at the Indiegogo funding website.
Any profits the film ultimately generates would go to Nevada County’s Hospitality House.
Just a reminder that KVMR’s 36th birthday party, potluck and music jam takes place Sunday at the Pioneer Park Creek Picnic Grounds, Nevada City.
The event goes 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. for broadcasters, listeners and the community.
A weekly wrap-up of news and oddities about community radio station KVMR (89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming), a noncommercial station offering diverse musical programming, independent news and provocative public affairs from about 180 volunteer “citizen-broadcasters.” A video and other information about the station’s new building is available at <bridgestreetproject.org> Complete program listings are available at kvmr.org