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Clandestine Celluloid Film Series at Ponderosa Stomp 

Sept. 24-25

One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse St.; www.ponderosastomp.com

click to enlarge James Booker is the subject of Lily Keber's forthcoming Bayou Maharajah.
  • James Booker is the subject of Lily Keber's forthcoming Bayou Maharajah.

Before handheld video cams and iPhones ushered in an age of instantaneous recording, capturing footage of a concert or filming an interview required no small effort. And for filmmakers, no small expense. Les Blank almost missed some of the best moments in Hot Pepper, his documentary about zydeco legend Clifton Chenier, because he was at the end of his supply of 16 mm film, and he feared the remaining stock had been exposed or compromised.

  "Clifton finally let loose at a dance when I was almost out of film," Blank says. "I shot several of these little 100-foot rolls, and I recorded the soundtrack, so I was able to patch it together."

  Because arrangements with other filmmakers never resulted in any money, Chenier was not a cooperative subject, Blank says. He frequently skipped arranged interviews and shows he told Blank he'd play. He did, however, give Blank one day in which he drove him to his regular haunts around Lafayette and took the filmmaker to meet his 108-year-old grandmother. Some of the tensions seem palpable in a scene at a roadside stop, where Chenier drinks a beer and chats with others hanging out at the shop. But the film is a very warm and at times vivid portrait of life around Lafayette in the early 1970s. There's great footage of Chenier singing, "I Am a Hog For You" ("I'm a hog for you baby/ I am gonna root around your door/ I'm gonna keep rooting all night till you love me some more").

  It wasn't the only time Blank had difficulties working with a subject, but he's been able to craft many excellent documentaries about performers including Cajun, Creole and zydeco musicians from Acadiana, bluesmen from Texas, fiddlers from Appalachia and even a pianist from Oklahoma who sued him twice over screenings of one film (which will be discreetly shown at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, in accordance with terms agreed upon with the subject).

  Organized by Ogden Museum of Southern Art film curator Madeleine Molyneaux, the Clandestine Celluloid portion of the Ponderosa Stomp (see "Stomping Grounds," p. 37) unseals some extremely rare concert footage, interviews and documentaries at One Eyed Jacks. There also are highlights from past Stomp concerts featuring the legends of early rock 'n' roll. Following are some of the scheduled films. Visit www.ponderosastomp.com for a full schedule.

Hot Pepper and extra footage from J'ai Ete Au Bal

Directed by Les Blank

1:30 p.m. Friday

Filmmaker and Tulane graduate Les Blank shot a couple of films about French-speaking black musicians in Acadiana in the early 1970s. Dry Wood chronicled Bois Sec Ardoin and Canray Fontenot. Here he screens Hot Pepper, his profile of Clifton Chenier. In the late 1980s, Blank returned to Acadiana to film J'ai Ete Au Bal/I Went to the Dance, which is an excellent documentary about Cajun and Creole musical traditions. Blank will screen 30 minutes of performances by Cajun and zydeco musicians that were not included in the documentary.

click to enlarge Les Blank's Hot Pepper captures zydeco king Clifton Chenier and brother Cleveland Chenier.
  • Les Blank's Hot Pepper captures zydeco king Clifton Chenier and brother Cleveland Chenier.
Teen-A-Go-Go

Directed by Melissa Kirkendall

1:30 p.m. Saturday

The British Invasion messed with Texas, especially Fort Worth. Teen-A-Go-Go is about the wave of Beatles-influenced bands that cropped up in the mid-1960s. Texas teens shed their 10-gallon hats and took to mod-looks, moptop haircuts, tight suits and names like The Elite, The Jades, The Vipers, The Novas and The Kandy Kanes. They filled dry clubs like the Teen-A-Go-Go to dance to the new sound, and many bands recorded 45s that aired on local radio. But none of the groups made it big, and Fort Worth remained a garage rocker's town in spite of an abundance of talent. The film revisits the scene with entertaining archival footage, and band members reminisce about the relatively innocuous wave of teen rebellion.

It's What's Happening, Baby

Originally aired on CBS-TV

Noon Saturday

This rarely shown made-for-TV show originally aired in 1965 as a promotion for President Lyndon Johnson's Opportunity Office. DJ Murray the K introduces superstars of the era including Johnny Mathis, Tom Jones, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Drifters, Ray Charles, the Ronettes and many other rock and Motown stars. Some lip synching in music-video-like shoots is poor, but it's an amusing time capsule with the young Bill Cosby telling jokes and talking about education and job opportunities. And Herman from The Munsters makes a goofy appearance trying to dance at a beach party before also making a job pitch.

Outtakes from Bayou Maharajah

Directed by Lily Keber

11 a.m. Friday

Lily Keber is working on a documentary about legendary New Orleans pianist the late James Booker. She'll preview footage from her interview tapes with Dr. John, Bunny Matthews, friends of Booker and others, as well as footage from European concerts, two of which have never been screened before. She expects to release the film in spring 2012.

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