Orphan Film Spotlight—Roach’s Lullaby (1973) and Welcome to Spivey’s Corner (1978)
Thanks to everyone who attended last week’s Exploratorium screening of films preserved through NFPF funding. Those who couldn’t make it will be glad to know two of the screening’s biggest hits can be watched online.
Roach’s Lullaby (1973), preserved by the New York Public Library, was praised by the New York Times as a witty and “bold excursion into one of the city’s great conflicts—the war against the roach.” The documentary profiles three New Yorkers who demonstrate eccentric methods of pest removal. Directed by Claudia Weill and Eli Noyes, Roach’s Lullaby is a prime example of on-the-go, hand-held 16mm documentary-making. And yes, it has a song about roaches.
Welcome to Spivey’s Corner (1978), directed by Kier Cline, documents the “National Hollerin’ Contest” annually held in the South Carolina hamlet of Spivey’s Corner (population 49). “Hollerin’” is an ancient type of long-distance vocalization that employs rapid shifts between natural and falsetto voices. It was commonly used in the eastern, rural regions of North Carolina to communicate with neighbors and family and even call farm animals. Spivey’s Corner opens with an interview of a Coharie Native American elder, followed by uproarious footage of various contestants. It was preserved by Folkstreams, whose online presentation includes an interview with the director and an essay on “Hollerin’” from folklorist Daniel Patterson.