Folkstreams Seeking Donations to Bring "A Singing Stream" to UNC-TV in February

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A remarkable North Carolina family is sharing their story in a unique format, and they are asking for the community to become a part of their history.

A Singing Stream: Reunion, sequel to the critically acclaimed 1985 film A Singing Stream: A Black Family Chronicle, debuted last year at the Landis family’s 80th reunion in Durham, and now the producers – family members with help from North Carolina-based non-profit PineCone (Piedmont Council of Traditional Music) and Virginia-based non-profit Folkstreams – are looking to share their films on UNC-TV, the Triangle region’s public television station, in February 2016 as part of Black History Month.

They are midway through a Kickstarter project to raise the funds to cover expenses related to the broadcast, including transferring the original film from 16-mm film to a state-of-the-art HD2K file suitable for broadcast. People who donate as little as $25 will receive a copy of a DVD with both films, including the new high resolution transfer of the original Singing Stream 16-mm film.

Donate to the project today

Together, this unique pair of films shows 100 years of African American history through the lens of the Landis family of Creedmoor, North Carolina. These are the only films ever to document a single African American family and to tell their story in their own words.

The first film, A Singing Stream: A Black Family Chronicle, focused on the matriarch of the family - Mrs. Bertha M. Landis - and several of her talented children. It was finished in 1985, and the journalist and writer Frye Gaillard called it “a little epic” in his review in the Charlotte Observer, adding that on “any list of the ingredients of black progress in America, there is probably none more important than the historic strength of the extended black family.” Whether making their way from tenant farmers to landowners during the Depression or later migrating northward for jobs or finding new careers through education, the Landises kept their sense of kinship and identity.

At the invitation of Bertha Landis’s grandchildren, filmmaker Tom Davenport returned 30 years later to see what had become of the family in the 21st century and collaborated with them to complete the sequel, A Singing Stream: Reunion. The new film was made with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts, with grants to PineCone in partnership with Folkstreams. Davenport was helped and advised by Bertha's grandchildren Iverson Landis, Kenneth Daniel, Dennis Daniel, and Efrem Daniel, as well as other Landis family members. Davenport’s old friends and mentors, Barry Dornfeld and folklorists Daniel and Beverly Patterson, also helped with the project.

The new film, Reunion, takes up the family’s story after Mrs. Landis’ death in 2000 at 102 years old. Her many grandchildren were concerned that their grandmother Bertha was “the glue that held the family together” and that after she had passed, the home farm might be divided and lost and the family would no longer hold together. Some of the grandchildren came to Tom Davenport, the independent filmmaker who had made the first film, and asked him to help them with this new film project. 

Davenport was intrigued by the idea of following the family into the 21st century, this time working with the members of the family to produce their own story. The resulting film shows the continued role of music and faith in this talented family and contrasts the lives of grandchildren who stayed in North Carolina with descendants of Bertha’s son Fleming, who left home for a job in the tire manufacturing town of Akron, Ohio, in the 1940s. The new film also highlights the dramatic economic and social changes around Raleigh, Durham, and the Research Triangle area of North Carolina since the first film was made.

Visit the Kickstarter campaign page for more information and to donate to the project

Learn more about Folkstreams

Watch the original A Singing Stream: A Black Family Chronicle