Virginia Heath developed and directed this film research project, ‘Cigar Box Blues – The Makers of a Revolution’ (originally titled ‘Three Chords and the Truth’) in collaboration with writer and Design Historian, Paul Atkinson. The film has been broadcast on both BBC 1 and BBC 4 as well as screened at film festivals in the UK, Europe and the United States including Woodstock, Nashville and Albuquerque. In ‘Cigar Box Blues – The Makers of a Revolution’, we meet the passionate makers and players of Cigar Box Guitars. Many of these craftsmen and musicians are from post-industrial British towns, and have created a self-identity through making these unique three-stringed guitars. Born from the Blues in the Mississippi Delta, their simple, low cost, ‘no rules’ approach means anyone can try their hand. These are the fervent advocates of the ‘Cigar Box Guitar Revolution’. Men who express their love of designing and constructing hand-made instruments, re-cycled from almost anything. The democratic, pro-recycling, anti-mass-production ethos of the movement inspires new recruits, while the emotional connection they feel for their instruments creates a unique and evocative sound that totally transports musicians and audiences alike. As director, Heath’s research enquiry is to explore how techniques of poetic documentary filmmaking can be used to interrogate the relationship of cigar box guitar making to the idea of ‘DIY as Resistance’ against consumerism, lack of authenticity and throw away culture. The film weaves spoken reflections together with the musical fabric and visual rhythm of the film, encouraging a poetic, philosophical approach in tune with the originality and musicality of the instruments created. The very uniqueness of the instruments encourages experimentation and finding new ways of playing. The film also explores the strange dichotomous relationship between going back to low tech musical instruments, but using high tech social media to grow the global movement. Although the cigar box guitar has a long history in the USA, where it formed part of the culture of traditional blues music, it has only recently become popular with musicians in the UK and across Europe. This film reveals how just three chords, played on their unique, DIY, instruments, hand-made from recycled materials, connect them to their truth.
Trailer available, but please contact the author if you would like to view the film.