Rome, Georgia, is no stranger to outstanding festivals. I often attended the Chiaha Festival and enjoyed its terrific gumbo of music, food, crafts and art. Readers of this column no doubt remember my work with The Rome International Film Festival, an event that continues to excel to this day.
In Albuquerque I am lucky that Ivan Weiner, the executive director of The Albuquerque Film and Music Experience, values my experience and expertise. This year I will have the huge pleasure and honor of hosting a Q & A with music and film score composer Dave Grusin who will be presented the 2019 Robert and Sibylle Redford Award for Creative Achievement. (Yes, that Robert Redford!)
I thought my days of festival leadership were long gone, but earlier this year I got a call from former Rome attorney William Boling. Bill, as we all call him, is a force of nature, whether using his law skills to save threatened rural hospitals or creating a fine art photography imprint in Atlanta where he publishes high-end photography books.
His phone call began with, “Now Harry, don’t hang up!” Now I must offer full disclosure, for Bill is my entertainment attorney, and I was sure he had sold “Martin the Guitar” to some Ukrainian animation concern bankrolled by Vladimir Putin.
Some festivals are about music and only music. My friend Don Powers is the executive director and founder of The Blind Willie Blues Festival, and the result is a compact and highly respected music featuring blues and Americana.
What Bill Boling proposed to me on that summer afternoon was a festival about place. He spoke of a county in Georgia that once was one of the centers of American commerce. He spoke of a Georgia region that produced Alice Walker (“The Color Purple”) and even Joel Chandler Harris (“Uncle Remus”).
Hancock County, and its town of Sparta, once was the center of the cotton trade until all that went away. The population over those last hundred years or so has drawn down precipitously, yet the pride, the culture, and the place remains a wonder. Sparta and Hancock County engage in the delicate dance of race and place, and the leadership there is energetic and optimistic. Bill Boling proposed a festival of music, film, literature and food that would celebrate this middle-Georgia setting on what we call Georgia’s Fall Line.
The Fall Line Jam will take place the first weekend of November in just a few weeks. The production team is formidable. A brilliant public relations whiz from Atlanta, Andrew Dietz, has been paired with Jeanette Vaughan, a world-class professional storyteller whose home is Hancock County. From Brooklyn, New York, comes Alexis Boling, an award-winning filmmaker and musician who will curate one of two music stages.
Festival locations include Downtown Sparta and Mr. Boling’s own 3Cent Farm. The 3Cent Farm has become a center for creative activity where the Boling family hosts young filmmakers from Atlanta and regional colleges and universities and talented writers seeking a place of peace and quiet in order to confront the blank page.
On Saturday, Nov. 2, there will be short films, readings from a student screenplay competition, and an afternoon main stage performance-area near the historic Sparta depot featuring singer songwriters and urban music creatives.
Rome’s own Joe Cook will present a book talk in one of Georgia’s most important eco-centers. Feature-length film will grace the early evening, and more music will end the night on the General Store Stage at 3Cent Farm.
Sunday will be nothing short of spectacular in that Jeannette Vaughan is curating a day of regional gospel choirs and a recreation of one of the most historic weddings in the history of a young state of Georgia.
The Fall Line Jam, as we now call it, will be nothing short of a brilliant celebration of a place populated by a proud and heroic culture of creativity, re-invention, and yes, survivability.
There is much more information on the festival website, www.falllinejam.com. (Note the stunning photography, compliments of Fall Line Press).
There are nearby hotels ranging from the uber deluxe Reynolds Plantation to more modestly priced settings near Greensboro and Milledgeville.
Join us for the day or the weekend. I hope to see familiar Rome faces at The Fall Line Jam, and I wish the Rome International Film Festival the following weekend a huge success.