2019 has been a phenomenal year for film and television. In all the commotion of heartfelt and action packed stories, a smaller film with a small release window was released. A Documentary titled Fiddlin’, the film is a beautifully intimate film that gives a close look at Appalachian music. More specifically, a music festival celebrating said type of music. Directed by Julie Simone, the documentary is all about artistic expression. Focusing on the competition at the Appalachian Music festival, the film has more than enough instrumentation to back up its beautiful visuals.
The cinematography for Fiddlin’ is a lot of the same thing, but that’s not necessarily a negative. When it’s the beautiful countryside of Virginia, there can never be enough establishing shots. On top of that, the subjects of the documentary are covered very well. From a guitar maker to a few select contestants, Fiddlin’ covers all the ground it needs. With its diverse group of subjects, the film is able to show how music is a part of all generations. The theme that music is a universal language rings true with this documentary.
The music is the main focus of the story, and the beautiful Applachian music is loud and clear. The sound mixing on Fiddlin’ makes sure that the music is front and center when it needs to be. The documentary also makes a point of putting the people enjoying the music is on display. There is a lot of dancing, and the film is all the better for it. Large chunks of the documentary is mainly just candid footage of jam sessions at the festival. Seeing everyday people coming together to speak with their music was a fascinating this to watch. Anytime the documentary is showing the people at the festival, it feels like an escape. There is nothing but good feelings and even better music.
Getting to look at the rich history behind the people who love this music makes the documentary compelling as well. Going inside the home of a famous guitar maker as well as hearing stories about what he does makes you really resonate with the subjects. There is a lot of heart in this festival, and the fact that the city of Galax depends on this festival for its survival is all the more heartwarming. This city practically bleeds music, and the documentary shows that well.
There are also a lot of intimate music moments as well, with one particular sequence involving guitar playing in the camping ground of the festival being particularly beautiful. The way some of the shots and sequences are filmed really makes the film have a cozy feel to it. Something about all of the festival and Fiddlin’ itself has a very wholesome feel to it. Everyone is just here for the music, no matter who wins or loses the competition. Speaking of which, the story structure of the documentary leading up to the competition winners makes for great buildup and ending. Following particular subjects makes for a great and fun payoff at the end of the documentary. Director Julie Simone really chooses her subjects well.
Overall, Fiddlin’ is a beautiful story about artistic expression. Artistic expression even in the face of adversity. It shows that you can express who you are and how you feel despite your struggles. Whether it be music, drawing, or anything, even if Fiddlin’ is particularly about music. The fact that subjects of the documentary range in age, ethnicity, and race make it all the more enjoyable. Fiddlin’ shows that when the celebrating of music is really just about music, there are no barriers. – Ernesto Valenzuela
Grade – 9/10