Sweet Old Song

Directed by Leah Mahan
Visit Film Site: www.leahmahan.com
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In his final years, string-band musician and national treasure Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong shared a life of creativity and feisty humor with artist Barbara Ward. Together they undertook a bittersweet journey to discover the past and their place in it.

Acclaimed musician Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong was renowned for a lifetime of jazz, blues, folk and country music. Armstrong’s roots in America’s musical past, his accomplished musicianship, and his sly and charming personality led the National Endowment for the Arts to honor him as a “national treasure.” But when Armstrong met Barbara Ward, a sculptor 30 years his junior, a new chapter of his life and art unfolded.

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“Remarkable”
-Roger Ebert ….“A soulful duet” -Los Angeles Times

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sweet-old-song_dvdSweet Old Song by Leah Mahan, is the story of Armstrong and Ward’s courtship and marriage- a unique partnership that inspired an outpouring of art and music. This creative work draws on nearly a century of African American experience, beginning with Armstrong’s vivid stories and paintings of his childhood in a segregated town in Tennessee.

Sweet Old Song was given a rare re-broadcast on P.O.V. in 2003 and is currently part of the P.O.V. True Lives series, which highlights classic films from the series archive. The documentary is also currently part of the Independent Television Service series True Stories which broadcasts independent American films abroad.

Nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement from the Directors Guild of America. Film critic Roger Ebert selected “Sweet Old Song” for his Overlooked Film Festival, where it joined the work of master filmmakers Errol Morris and Werner Herzog. In 2009, the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville and other venues around the country celebrated the 100th anniversary of Howard Armstrong’s birth (March 4, 1909) with screenings of Sweet Old Song. The “P.O.V.” series celebrated his birthday by streaming the film on its Web site in March and April.

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Leah Mahan
is currently working on Turkey Creek, a documentary about a coastal Mississippi community settled by emancipated slaves that is threatened by urban sprawl and environmental contamination. The work in progress is featured on the Bill Moyers Journal Web site for a story titled Katrina Recovery Gone Wrong? Mahan began working on documentary films in 1988 as a research assistant for filmmaker Henry Hampton on the acclaimed PBS series Eyes on the Prize: America at the Racial Crossroads.

Her first independent film, Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street, aired on public television in 1997. The documentary chronicles the 12-year struggle of residents to transform Boston’s most devastated neighborhood into a vibrant community. The Ford Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation funded a national education and outreach initiative for the film, including the distribution of the video and companion materials to more than 1,000 nonprofits struggling with sustainable development and community control. After Hurricane Katrina, a short version of the film was commissioned by the Annie E. Casey Foundation for use by community-building organizations on the Gulf Coast. A sequel to the documentary is in production.

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