Like many history-loving dads, Jim Conant took his family on vacations to Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields. But unlike many, he had a son who not only shared his passion, he took it a step further. Sean Conant recalls that his father suggested they “make it a quest to visit all five places that held original copies of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.” Along the journey, a documentary was born.
Over the past year, Jim and Sean have traveled from their home in Hampton, N.H., to view the five known copies of the speech written in Lincoln’s hand. Besides shooting the trip on HD video, they have interviewed Civil War historians, Lincoln scholars, entertainers, writers, and more. The talking heads include Henry Louis Gates Jr. and John Stauffer of Harvard University, William M. Fowler of Northeastern University, US Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, actor Matthew Broderick, and journalist Tom Brokaw.
The Conants plan to finish their movie, “The Gettysburg Address,” in October and are aiming for a November release to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s landmark speech. They hope the film will find a home on PBS. “It’s part history lesson, part father-son adventure, and part chronicle of how historic documents are conserved,” says Sean.
The Conants went to the White House recently for a private showing of the “Bliss copy” of the speech. Since the document never leaves the Lincoln bedroom, the filmmakers say they are motivated to show it to Americans eager to view the manuscript. “It was so rewarding to see it with our own eyes,” says Sean. Next, they head to Cornell University to film the “Everett copy” in the library and interview historian Margaret Washington. Two versions of the address are in the Library of Congress, and another is at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill.
“Historians are happy to be included in what we’re trying to do. We’re all in this together,” says Sean, who will attend UNH this fall as a history major. “We’re not Ken Burns. We’re not Hollywood. We just have great passion for history and a crazy idea.”
For more go to www.gettysburgaddressfilm.com
Music of the heart
Claire Andrade-Watkins, Emerson College professor and president of SPIA Media Productions Inc., launched her latest film, “Serenata de Amor,” a Cape Verdean love story told in song, online in May ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M196bxQBkbo). The film celebrates the traditional music of the island country off the coast of West Africa with a lush period romance. Andrade-Watkins for 10 years has documented and honored the Cape Verdean experience and culture starting with her first feature, “Some Kind of Funny Porto Rican?: A Cape Verdean American Story” (2006). What has changed is her embrace of completely digital production and distribution.
Earlier this month she launched “The making of Serenata de Amor,” a behind-the-scenes short produced with Emerson students and faculty (www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4YSFUJytuE). “Internet distribution is the key to direct access to my global audience and breaks the bottleneck of trying to get through to festivals,” says Andrade-Watkins. “ ‘Serenata de Amor’ just passed 8,300 views all through word of mouth, local Cape Verdean cable programs, and social media. This digital production and distribution model allows me to deliver high-quality content straight to the targeted audience.”
For more go to www.serenatadeamorthemovie.com
The stellar Burt Lancaster Centennial Tribute continues at both the Brattle and the Harvard Film Archive. A double feature Aug. 19 and 20 at the Brattle features Lancaster in Sydney Pollack’s “The Scalphunters” (1968) and “Castle Keep” (1969). Lancaster fans won’t want to miss two gems on Aug. 27: “Trapeze” (1956), co-starring Tony Curtis and Gina Lollobrigida, followed by Lancaster and Curtis in the acting tour de force that is “Sweet Smell of Success” (1957).
For more, go to brattlefilm.org
The HFA’s Lancaster celebration will stretch into September, with Norman Foster’s “Kiss the Blood off My Hands” on Aug. 19; John Frankenheimer’s “The Train” on Aug. 23; and Robert Aldrich’s “Vera Cruz” co-starring Gary Cooper on Aug. 25.
For more, go to http://hcl.harvard.edu/hfa/ilms/2013julsep/lancaster.html
The complete feature film retrospective The Films of Wong Kar-wai continues at the Museum of Fine Arts with the exquisite “In the Mood for Love” on Aug. 18 at 3 p.m. The series, featuring 35mm prints, leads up to a special advance screening of his latest, much-anticipated film “The Grandmaster” on Aug. 22 at 7:30. That event is sold out, but the film opens here Aug. 30.
For more, go to www.mfa.org