Fairmont State Folk Life Center to host documentary screening, conversation with filmmaker

What happens to a town that loses its heart? This is the question filmmaker Rebecca Williams asked about Swannanoa, a small town in the mountains of North Carolina, once home to Beacon Blankets, the largest manufacturer of blankets in the world. 

The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center is excited to host a screening of the documentary film, “Blanket Town: The Rise and Fall of an American Mill Community”, followed by a conversation with filmmaker and documentarian, Rebecca Williams, on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 at 12:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.

This is the first event is the first of part two of the Diversity in Appalachia Lecture Series: Search for Identity. Events held in the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center are free and open to the public. 

Blanket Town chronicles the rise and fall of a company town, built entirely around the “big red thumping heart” of the mill. The film follows the changes in Swannanoa, North Carolina, after the factory closes. 

It is a huge story — the rise and collapse of US manufacturing — told small. This complex and urgent history comes alive through amazing archival footage, interwoven with the voices of former mill workers and townspeople — rich and poor, white and black, male and female — who speak with honest emotion and humor. Since 1992, almost 70 percent of North Carolina’s textile and apparel jobs have disappeared.

Through one fascinating and moving case study, Blanket Town brings viewers a deep personal understanding of complex economic and social forces that shaped our industrial past and our uncertain present.

Blanket Town director and editor Rebecca Williams is a theater director, filmmaker, educator, and oral historian with a long history of working with communities across the country, guiding them to collect and tell their own stories.

As co-founder of the multi-disciplinary performance company, Serpent Child Productions, Ms. Williams has worked professionally in theater for the past 30 years, including creating a series of community-based folk history plays in Oklahoma, Florida, and North Carolina based on oral history interviews gathered from local residents.

After graduating from Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, her passion has turned to digital storytelling and documentary filmmaking.

The Diversity in Appalachia Lecture Series is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations do not necessarily represent those of the West Virginia Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities. This semester the theme of the series is “Search for Identity.” The presentations will delve into race, class, and gender.  

For additional information, contact the Frank and Jane Gabor, WV Folklife Center at 304-367-4403.

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