Having a slow day down at the film development office? Here’s a formula that never fails: pick some backwoods Southern town, hint that outsiders aren’t welcome there–“you ain’t from around here, are ye?”–and send some outsider in to check things out.
The latest version of this tiresome stuff is Iron City Blues, a documentary that depicts–well, let’s go to the press release, along with a little commentary:
After years of hearing
urbanrural legends about a lawless old mining town with a sky-high murder rate, (uh, when your population is only 368, all it takes is one killing to game the stats) blues musician Big Mike Griffin rides to Iron City to learn the truth for himself. Unlike nearby McNairy County which was home to Sheriff Buford Pusser in “Walking Tall,” Iron City has remained lawless and untamed. To Big Mike, it was the perfect subject for a blues song.
Along with a former Marine as a guide, Big Mike rides through Tennessee’s backroads to the heart of Iron City. (Blink and you’ll miss this “heart.”) There, surrounded by buildings ravaged by fire and years of decay (we couldn’t afford to film in Detroit), he interviews a fascinating collection of locals who seem to actually enjoy living their lives on the edge of anarchy. (As do most residents of peckerwood towns from coast to coast.) The resulting song, a high-energy blues anthem infused with southern rock (invoke Lynyrd Skynyrd here), is as much a celebration of Iron City as it is an ominous warning to outsiders.
Cue the banjo music, folks, it’s Deliverance 23!
Today’s Tennessean has a article about the film and how it is playing in Iron City. That’s not what concerns me. What I hate to see is yet another stereotypical, redneck view of Tennessee trotted out to the world. Yes, I’m sure there are some bad dudes in and around Iron City who make threats about outsiders. Those same mouthy characters live in Dogpatch towns in Maine and Wyoming, too, but no one ever makes movies about places like that.
The press kit for Iron City Blues has a “Director’s Statement” in which Scott C. Jackson breathlessly states “Even though we were traveling with Big Mike Griffin, who stands nearly 7 feet tall, and Jason Neese, who is a former Marine, I still took every precaution while filming in Iron City.” From the looks of Big Mike, the biggest thing anyone had to fear was getting him more than 10 minutes away from a cardio unit.
The irony is that Iron City Blues won an Honorable Mention award at the George Lindsey Film Festival. Lindsey, as devotees of the Andy Griffith Show can all testify, played Goober on that long-running show. There’s the one-liner blurb for this movie: By goobers, about goobers, and for goobers.