The worldwide travels and unique cultural finds of renowned American folklorist Henry Glassie are enthrallingly chronicled in this portrait by director Pat Collins (Song of Granite).


Contemporary World Cinema

Henry Glassie: Field Work

Pat Collins

Henry Glassie has made a life out of studying folk artists and the marvels they create. Over the past 50 years, the renowned US scholar has travelled to five continents, conducting fieldwork with an obsessive thoroughness. Each project Glassie undertakes requires at least a decade. Brimming with insights into the artistic impulse — and how every culture manifests its own standard of beauty and meaning — this poetic portrait of Glassie doubles as a travelogue, taking us places Glassie has embedded himself.

In Bahia, Brazil, we meet Evidal Rosas, charged with reconstructing sacred statues for which there remain no record, and Rosalvo Santana, who meticulously sculpts from clay a magisterial saint flanked by cherubs. Captured with mesmerizing intimacy by director Pat Collins (Song of Granite) and cinematographer Colm Hogan, the process of these artists is awe-inspiring.

Henry Glassie: Field Work also allows us to witness the walling up of a massive kiln in Piedmont, North Carolina, and features archival recordings of Glassie's encounters with carpet weavers and ceramicists in western Turkey, and storytellers in Collins and Hogan's home country of Ireland, where Glassie's subjects reflect on their troubled present by talking about the past.

At home in Bloomington, Indiana in between journeys, Glassie speaks of the particularities of his approach. His credo is to meet people in terms of their excellence, rather than their failings. If more of us could apply Glassie's philosophy to our lives, the world would be a better place.



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