German director M.A. Littler got noticed last year in the festival circuit with The Road to Nod, a slow-moving existential film noir with religious references and a moody blues soundtrack. The film travelled all over the world and even won a well-deserved Jury Prize at the Boston Underground Film Festival. Being a very productive filmmaker, it took Littler just a few months to produce and direct another feature. The Folksinger just had its world premiere at the Deep Blues Music & Film Festival where it grabbed the best documentary award. Such recognition might raise a few eyebrows because this movie isn't a straightforward doc, but a strange object sitting on the thin line between reality and fiction.
Having directed many documentaries on underground musicians, it seemed only logical that M.A. Littler would decided to explore their world with a traditionnal narrative. But in the tradition of John Cassavetes, the use of fiction in The Folksinger is pretty limited, the story is thin and turns out to be a device to capture the artist's confessions on a wide variety of subjects. With all the protagonists playing themselves, it becomes clear that all the statements in the film are true, making them informative and moving. A scene featuring a singer describing his inner-demons hits with a sad honnesty that can only be found in the best documentaries.
The photography is beyond beautiful. The vivid colors and the static shots transform a South we've seen so many times on the screen into a new world to explore. Littler also presents a different face of America with abandonned buildings, low-key stores and lonesome roads. The characters follow a philosophy that doesn't fit in the ever-changing country. They're doomed to travel like ghosts in the ruins of a glorified past. A past that remains trought music. Anyone into folk must hear this film for the amazing soundtrack composed mostly of live performances. Old classics are mixed with new tracks, making you wish a soundtrack could eventually become available.
Sure, the film is not for everyone, it has people talking and no action, but anyone into music or looking for an old-school New Wave kinda film will be pleased by it. The Folksinger might not be the accomplishment The Road to Nod was, but it does confirm the filmmaker's unique vision. M.A. Littler is one of the most promising voice in independant cinema.