Movie Review - The Beauty of Barbara Allen (Short)

Sheila Kay Adams in 'The Beauty of Barbara Allen'
I was able to attend the Rhode Island International Film Festival or RIIFF in Providence this month. What distinguishes the festival from many others around the country and the world is that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has designated RIIFF as a place where short films can play to be eligible for an Oscar in the various short film categories. As such, the festival is very short-film heavy. One short film I saw was this one on blue-grass music in the state of North Carolina.

Director Jackson Anthony begins this documentary, short subject, with an old man reflecting on the past and his memories of life in this area. He then starts to sing an old folk song. The lyrics to which include this movie's titular name. Except, the old man pronounces the name "Brie Allen."

One after the other, Anthony introduces us to eight or so residents of this area. Each of whom are musicians. Many play bluegrass instruments like the fiddle or the banjo. One woman is even a vocalist. Anthony has these people talk about the music and how it relates to where they live or even how they live. Interspersed are scenes, rather pastoral, of the area. Whether it's fields of grass or electric power-lines, Anthony's camera looks at them lovingly, while the old man's singing carries the images like a cinematic stream.

It's a good use of music and song to convey not necessarily specifics, which we do get, but more of a general feeling about a place, an emotion. It's using sound and the rhythm of bluegrass to connect us with this place and the lives of the people in it.

Four Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but for general audiences.
Running Time: 27 mins.
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