BURGER-Fiddlin_ Still of Jake hi-res

At the RiverRun International Film Festival, they’re not fiddling around.

Well, actually, they are. Winston-Salem’s premier film festival will screen the award-winning documentary feature Fiddlin’ on Wednesday, Sept. 25 at The Ramkat in Winston-Salem, and on Friday, Oct. 4 at the Reeves Theater in Elkin.

The film offers an in-depth, to say nothing of melodious, exploration of the Old Fiddler’s Convention, which has been held in Galax, Virginia, since 1935 and has become the largest gathering of its kind. Musicians congregate each August to perform and to share their love of music with the masses.

The film marks the feature debut of writer/producer/director Julie Simone and her sister, writer/producer Vicki Vlasic, and marked something of a homecoming for them. They grew up in Virginia, just a few miles from Galax, so they have a personal appreciation and understanding of its history and legacy.

“Our parents took us to this annual event every summer as we grew up to expose us to the music and traditions,” Vlasic said. “As children, the only musicians we saw playing were adults. When we went back years later as adults ourselves, the tables had turned, and there were hundreds of young kids carrying around instruments instead of cellphones, hanging out and jamming with people 50-60 years older. Seeing that was the biggest inspiration and real motivation to make this documentary. We started filming at the 80th anniversary in 2015 and began our festival tour in 2018.”

Vlasic and the film’s sound recordist, Winston-Salem resident Tom Hauser, are among the special guests scheduled to attend both screenings to discuss the production, the festival and to entertain questions from the audience.

In addition to critical acclaim, Fiddlin’ has also cleaned up on the festival circuit, winning awards from the East Lansing Film Festival (Best Feature Film), the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (Overall Audience Favorite), the Knoxville Film Festival (Audience Favorite – Documentary), the Macon Film Festival (Best Documentary), and the Virginia Film Festival (Commonwealth Award for Best Feature Film), to name just a few.

“We could not be happier with the reception the film has received … we kind of became this ‘little film that could,’” Vlasic said. “But, I have to say that while winning Best Documentary a couple of times was really gratifying, having the audiences respond so enthusiastically in so many different parts of the country made it all worthwhile. The whole process of getting this film made was quite a journey, and we learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way, but I can’t say that seeing how things have turned out that we would have done much differently.”

According to RiverRun executive director Rob Davis, “the film is an old-time and bluegrass music documentary that takes place at the world’s oldest Fiddler’s Convention in the Appalachian Mountains. With multi-generations jamming together, we will be witness to some off-the-charts pickin’ and fiddlin’ during this film. Fiddlin’ is a joyous celebration of Americana.”

“I hope that when people see this film, it will open their eyes to so many things,” Vlasic said. “Not only do I hope viewers will have an appreciation for the music, but that they will also see that the people in this part of the country are not the negative stereotypes so often presented by the media. They are eloquent, charming, authentic, talented, intelligent and inspirational. On a simpler note, I hope that audiences leave the theater with a smile on their faces after seeing this joyful and uplifting film.”

The 2020 RiverRun International Film Festival will take place March 26 – April 5 with screenings in Winston-Salem and Greensboro.

See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. © 2019, Mark Burger.

Wanna go?

The RiverRun International Film Festival’s special screenings of Fiddlin’ will take place 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25 at The Ramkat, 170 W. 9th St., Winston-Salem, and 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4 at the Reeves Theater, 129 W. Main St., Elkin. Tickets at The Ramkat are $12 and are available online or at the door. Tickets at the Reeves Theater are $12 (general admission) and $6 (senior citizens and students) and are available online at or at the door.

For more information about this or other RiverRun events, call 336.724.1502 or visit the official website.

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