Southern Exposure: The Great Smoky Mountain Film Festival

Southern Exposure: The Great Smoky Mountain Film Festival

WHAT: Southern Exposure: The Great Smoky Mountain Film Festival at the 2015 Annual East Tennessee History Fair

WHEN: Saturday, August 15, noon–10 p.m.

WHERE: The Historic Tennessee Theatre, 604 South Gay Street

WHO: Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound (TAMIS) of the Knox County Public Library with the Historic Tennessee Theatre, the East Tennessee Historical Society, and Friends of the Library

HOW: Films during the day begin at noon and are free and open to the public. Stark Love and the accompanying documentary Lost Masterpiece begin at 7:00; tickets are $9.00 adult, $7.00 children under 12 and seniors 65 and over. Tickets are available now at all Ticketmaster outlets, the Tennessee Theatre box office, and by phone at 800-745-3000. Tickets may also be purchased at the door. 

Knox County Public Library’s Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound (TAMIS) and its partners, the East Tennessee Historical Society, Friends of the Library, and the Historic Tennessee Theatre, will host a day of film screenings featuring rare home movies and films focusing on the Smoky Mountains. TAMIS holds the largest and most diverse collection of Smoky Mountain home movie footage in the state of Tennessee, including the collections of Jim Thompson, Jack Huff, the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club, Arrowmont School and others.

Jim ThompsonPart of the East Tennessee History Fair, this event will be unique and exciting for East Tennesseans, as many of these films have never been shown publicly. Daytime screenings beginning at noon will be free and open to the public, and will feature a variety of films. Highlights include the earliest recorded footage of the Smoky Mountains, home movies of Cades Cove, and clips of Knoxville and the Smokies from the Jim Thompson Collection. Local musicians will provide live music to accompany the silent films.

Stark LoveThe film festival will culminate in a ticketed screening of the 1927 Paramount feature Stark Love. Included in 2009 to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant, this silent classic was lost for decades before turning up in a European archive. 

Stark Love was cast almost exclusively with amateur actors and filmed entirely in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Robbinsville, North Carolina. Helen Mundy, a Knoxville teenager discovered in a local drugstore by Paramount talent scouts, gives a riveting performance as a free-spirited mountain girl destined to escape the confining traditions of life in the hills of Appalachia. The male lead in the film was Forrest James, father of Fob James, 48th governor of Alabama. 
Directed by pioneering filmmaker Karl Brown, Stark Love was a critical success when released in 1927, lauded for its realism and documentary-style approach to filmmaking. The film, however, performed poorly at the box office, and promptly disappeared. 
Stark Love has stood the test of time and is now considered a classic of its era when viewed by modern audiences. Recently restored by the Museum of Modern Art with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation, the new 35mm motion picture preservation print of Stark Love is on loan from MOMA. 
Local organist, Freddie Brabson, will play the Tennessee’s Mighty Wurlitzer to accompany the film. Lost Masterpiece, a documentary about the making of Stark Love, will precede the feature. Filmmaker and historian, Dr. John White will introduce the documentary, and Jack Neely, Director of the Knoxville History Project, will introduce Stark Love.  This ticketed portion of the festival begins at 7:00 PM

Schedule of films:

Free events:

Noon: Dr. Bill Snyder performs on the Tennessee Theatre’s mighty Wurlitzer organ

12:20: The Motion Picture Films of Jim Thompson, 1915–1950

1:30: Picturing the Smokies: Vintage Views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 1920s–1960s

2:45: From the Vaults: The Heartland Series, 1989 The Rolling Store episode and its outtakes (WBIR-TV)

3:45–5:00: Sounds and Silents: Found Footage and Mountain Melodies

  • Silent Town; Music accompaniment by Todd Steed
  • Our Southern Mountaineers / In the Moonshine Country (Paramount-Bray, 1918); Music accompaniment by Dave Ball
  • ​A Forgotten Smokey Mountain Road Trip, circa 1938; Music accompaniment by The Swill Sippers

Ticketed events:

7:00: Lost Masterpiece: Karl Brown’s Stark Love (2011); Introduction by filmmaker and historian John White followed by Stark Love (Paramount, 1927) Introduction by Jack Neely, Knoxville History Project; Music accompaniment by Freddie Brabson on the Mighty Wurlitzer organ


Support for 2015 East Tennessee History Fair and the Smoky Mountain Film Festival is generously provided by the Friends of the Knox County Public Library, the Seven Islands Foundation, Clayton Bank & Trust, WDVX and WUOT radio stations.

About the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound

The Knox County Public Library’s Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound is dedicated to preserving the moving image and audio heritage of East Tennessee.This unique archive contains films from as early as 1915. Its moving image collection currently contains more than 5,000 reels and videotapes of home movies, documentaries, advertisements, industrial and training films, commercial films, television programming and newsreels, all with local or regional connections. Its audio collection includes vintage radio programming, sound recordings, and oral histories and field recordings from the region, which date back to the 1930s. The Archive works to preserve these rare pieces of East Tennessee history and make them accessible to the public. For more information about the Smoky Mountain Film Festival, please contact Bradley Reeves at (865) 215-8856 or at