Following its massively successful world premiere at Hot Docs this past spring – 3 sold out screenings, 3 standing ovations, #2 Audience Choice – Emmy-winning director Shelley Saywell brings Lowdown Tracks, her awe-inspiring documentary, to television, for its world broadcast premiere on TVO.
Music is an expression of the spirit for everyone. But for some who survive on the periphery of society, it can also be a life-saving coping mechanism and the last stand of their dignity. Director Saywell’s moving and mesmerizing film was created with singer/activist Lorraine Segato.
Filmed over 18 months, it captures the music and stories of five musicians who are homeless or on the margins. Inspired in part by the famous Depression Era recordings of Allan and John Lomax, the film is a look at our society from way down low, the place where people who have been forced or opted out of the mainstream find themselves.
Recorded in the streets, under bridges, in shelter rooms, or in places that have special meaning in their lives, the songs combine passion, talent, misfortune and despair.
The view from the ground is a troubling one,
“because you have to know pain and heart ache to be out there,”
says Katt Budd, one of the musicians in the film who became a runaway street kid at age 13.
The film features Hole in the Wall, a track from Lorraine Segato’s latest CD, Invincible Decency, along with a soundtrack of music never heard or recorded before, from people who should be listened to. From folk, punk hobo, Americana, and blues, their music resonates with hard times, eerily resembles past times, and throws a new perspective on our times.
“The songs they’ve written come directly from their experiences – the hell of their lives,”
says Segato, who was first exposed to the caliber of street music at a benefit concert for homeless relief.
“As our homeless crisis grows, life on the margins threatens more and more people,”
adds director Saywell.
“The causes, from abuse to mental health to simple bad luck, are all touched on in the stories in the film, but at its heart Lowdown Tracks is about bringing into focus the heartache and the beautiful potential we should see when we walk by someone on the street. In the end, it is a celebration of the power of music and survival.”
Lowdown Tracks was written, produced and directed by Shelley Saywell
produced and also partly shot by Deborah Parks
cinematography by Michael Grippo CSC and John Tran CSC
sound recording by Peter Sawade and edited by Deborah Palloway
commissioned by TVO, Executive Producer Jane Jancovic