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Volume 26, Number 2 — February 2019

Bidgood, Lange receive RDC grant to prepare film for East Tennessee PBS screening

September 23, 2014

JOHNSON CITY, TN East Tennessee State University faculty members Dr. Lee Bidgood and Shara Lange produced their documentary "Banjo Romantika: American Bluegrass and the Czech Imagination" with the aid of a grant from the university's Research Development Committee. A second RDC grant is now helping them prepare the film for screening on East Tennessee PBS.

Filmed primarily in the Czech Republic in 2011, "Banjo Romantika" highlights Czech musicians who are part of the global interest in bluegrass music. It also features Bidgood's performance of original Czech bluegrass songs filmed at the Down Home in Johnson City.

""Banjo Romantika' introduces viewers to Czechs who first heard bluegrass when the Armed Forces Network broadcast American music for soldiers," said Bidgood, an assistant professor of Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Studies in the ETSU Department of Appalachian Studies. He has studied and performed extensively in the Czech Republic. "The music represented freedom to dissatisfied Czechs living in a communist state, and their love for the music was solidified when Pete Seeger visited and performed in 1964.

"Inspired by classic American bluegrass sounds, an assortment of musicians from across the formerly communist nation have melded the past, the political and the present into a lively musical tradition entirely its own."

Post-production work was done at ETSU, and the film was completed in 2013. It was co-produced by Bidgood and Lange, an assistant professor of communication at ETSU, who also served as director and editor.

The 65-minute film has been screened at the Down Home as well as the Virginia Film Festival, Nashville International Film Festival and On Location: Memphis International Film and Music Fest. It has also been selected for screening this fall at the International Bluegrass Music Association's inaugural World of Bluegrass Film Festival in Raleigh, N.C. The festival is part of the annual World of Bluegrass Week (Sept. 30-Oct. 4), which includes the prestigious IBMA Awards ceremony.

The producers sent "Banjo Romantika" to Russ Manning at East Tennessee PBS, who, according to Lange, is a strong supporter of local filmmakers and was excited about showing the documentary regionally.

In preparation for this, Bidgood and Lange are using the funding from their RDC grant to cover closed captioning, a music supervisor, tape production and acquiring archival footage from national archives. ETSU students will also help in various areas of production and research.

"This opportunity to broadcast our film on public television will provide valuable exposure for ETSU," Bidgood said. "It helps us to contribute to public scholarship and will garner a wider audience for the film. Also, students involved in the project will learn first-hand about the process of preparing a project for PBS."

The project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2015.

More information about "Banjo Romantika: American Bluegrass and the Czech Imagination" is available at