The Winding Stream documentary cover

SXSW Film Festival: The Winding Stream


The Winding Stream

SXSW Film Festival

Director: Beth Harrington

The Winding Stream is a documentary about the influential Carter family, a clan of musicians that helped shape country music for years to come. Johnny Cash shows up and gives some of the best bits, but it’s the music that really drew me in.

Watching this film is a bit like going to a family party at Christmas, listening to your older relatives talk about ‘Nam and Nixon, little details about an old house, or an old car, relics of a not-so-distant past. Much like how A.P. Carter collected songs, I collected stories growing up. During long road trips through the Cascades and along the coast, I would listen carefully to my parent’s stories: how they met, their first house, their first car, how it smelled in Alaska in the springtime. I listened to those stories with care and precision, and I found myself doing the same with these stories.

Of course, they aren’t all interesting. As the film progresses, in its “half Ken Burns, half Unwrapped with Marc Summers” style, only a few stand out. Like the story of Dr. John R. Brinkley, whose medical license was removed for doing a series of operations that included implanting a goat testicle into a man’s testicle. He moved to Del Rio, Texas and started a sort of “rebel broadcasting station” on the border so that he could say anything he wanted, things like “Women, many of them, are cold and frigid, due to the fact that their clitoris is hooded and needs unhooding.” Classy stuff.

Honestly, if you’re not a fan of country or any type of outlaw music, you may find nothing interesting about the film, but if you can look past the conventional format, you may find an immensely enjoyable look into an overlooked part of music history.

SXSW Screenings:

Saturday, March 15 – 7:00PM – 8:27PM @ Alamo Ritz