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Appalachian film soars with music and poignant message

Dan Gellert and Kentuckian Ma Crow play old-time music in the independent film, The Mountain Minor, which airs July 24 on Kentucky Educational Television. Photo: alt452 Productions
Asa Nelson plays Charlie Abner, an eastern Kentucky boy whose family moves to Ohio during the Great Depression, in The Mountain Minor. Photo: alt452 Productions
Acclaimed string band, The Tillers, play a fictional band in The Mountain Minor. Photo: alt452 Productions
From left, Warren Waldren, Judy Waldren, Hazel Pasley, Amy Clay, Jonathan Bradshaw, Asa Nelson and Elizabeth LaPrelle Photo: alt452 Productions
From left, Elizabeth LaPrelle, Hazel Pasley and Asa Nelson. Photo: alt452 Productions
Hazel Pasley and Asa Nelson play children whose families move from Eastern Kentucky during the Great Depression, in The Mountain Minor. Photo: alt452 Productions
Writer-director Dale Farmer, right, discusses a scene with actors, while shooting The Mountain Minor. Photo: Sam Linkous

The Mountain Minor airs July 24 on Kentucky Educational Television

“Just listen,” Granny Whitt tells young Charlie Abner in the new independent movie called The Mountain Minor

“Hear that,” she says. “The Lord’s music is all around you. It never stops. When you play that fiddle, you’re a part of it. So listen real close when you play that fiddle.” 

Charlie is soon to leave his Appalachian home and heritage. The Great Depression has forced his father to find work near Cincinnati, Ohio. But the Abner family takes their most valuable possession—their musical heritage—with them. The music has been passed down through generations just as the fiddle Charlie plays throughout the film was passed down to him and then his children and grandchildren. 

The Mountain Minor is based on the true story of my family, who had to leave Jackson County, Kentucky, to come to Cincinnati to find work,” says Dale Farmer, who wrote, co-produced and directed the film. Susan Pepper was co-producer. 

“The family stories were told to me over and over,” Farmer says. “They started fading from my memory, so I started writing them down. I have a love for storytelling, so I put it into this screenplay, and shared it with an old-time band in Ohio. They encouraged me to contact some additional musicians. To my surprise, every last one of them said yes to appearing in this movie that was a five-year process with little funding.” 

Kentuckian Ma Crow plays the elder Ruth Abner, Charlie’s childhood friend who ultimately marries him. 

“Dale Farmer hired all musicians to play the major parts,” Crow says. “The movie is as much about music and culture as family history. You can’t separate one from another.” 

Crow still plays old-time music that is featured in the movie, which predates bluegrass and country genres. It combines African-American and Anglo-American music; the banjo and fiddle predominate. 

The story of the Abner family is one many Kentuckians will identify with. 

“The movie is a simple story of a family who works hard, is resourceful, creative, moral and loving,” Farmer says. 

It is a story of hope and courage, of choosing joy through difficult times—and is as relevant in the COVID-19 era as the Depression era in which it’s set. 

The Mountain Minor airs on Kentucky Educational Television on Friday, July 24, 9 p.m. Eastern/8 p.m. Central. 

Click here to purchase the film on DVD or Blu-ray.

Click here to download the film from Amazon Prime.

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