Big Ears Presents Suttree’s Knoxville at Lakeshore Park Thursday, July 8
Cormac McCarthy’s iconic novel, Suttree, set in Knoxville in the 1950s, chronicles four years in the life of Cornelius Suttree, who has abandoned a life of privilege, lives in a dilapidated houseboat on the Tennessee River, and spends his days navigating the gritty underside of the city amidst its outcasts and eccentrics. On Thursday, July 8, the Big Ears Festival will present Suttree’s Knoxville: A Hymn to the Past in Film & Music, an outdoor multimedia experience offered free-to-the-public at West Knoxville’s beautiful Lakeshore Park, where the Tennessee River and the Smoky Mountains serve as a stunning stage set for the evening. Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound (TAMIS) archivist Eric Dawson has drawn from TAMIS’ extensive collection of film footage and photographs from Knoxville in the 1950s to create a riveting 70-minute silent film that mirrors the scenes, places, and character of McCarthy’s landmark book.
“Knoxville is fortunate to have McCarthy’s Suttree as one of its defining works of literature,” says Dawson. “The novel serves as a map of mid-century Knoxville. Real people and places are recognizable throughout the book, some bearing their authentic names, some slightly disguised. TAMIS holds a remarkable collection of films and photographs that capture the city around the time Suttree takes place. The film compiled from those images for this project is not meant to replicate the narrative of the book, but instead give a semblance of what Knoxville might have looked like through Suttree’s, and by extension McCarthy’s, eyes at the time.”
The film will be projected onto a 40-foot-wide screen and scored live by an all-star ensemble of musicians, including Knoxville’s inaugural poet laureate RB Morris with guitarist Greg Horne and bassist Daniel Kimbro; jazz singer and ukulele player Kelle Jolly with saxophonist Will Boyd; balladeer, guitarist, and folklorist Jake Xerxes Fussell; and guitarist and composer Bill MacKay with banjo player and old-time music expert Nathan Bowles. RB Morris will read key passages from the novel during the performance.
The performance takes place on the main lawn at Lakeshore Park and is free and open to the public. Music will start at 8pm and the film with live score will begin at 9pm, just as the sun is setting. There will be ample free parking on-site. Sweet P’s Barbecue will offer food and beverages, along with Captain Muchacho’s and Fai Thai food trucks.
Suttree’s Knoxville is made possible with generous support from the Aslan Foundation.
Alongside Big Ears, presenting partners for Suttree’s Knoxville include Tennessee Archive for Moving Image + Sound, Knox County Public Library, Lakeshore Park Conservancy, and the Knoxville History Project.