Photographer Kurt Markus is Visionary Filmmaker Behind It’s About You

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Aboutyou Kurt Markus, whose work as a still photographer has put him in the front ranks of contemporary American visual artists, is the visionary filmmaker behind It’s About You.  The film premiered as one of the featured selections chosen for the 2011 SXSW Film Conference and Festival at the Alamo Ritz 1 at 6:30 PM on Saturday, March 12, 2011 in Austin, Texas, followed by a Q+A session with the filmmakers and John Mellencamp.

It’s About You, an American Documentary Showcase selection, will be featured at the Nashville Film Festival next month. Nashville screenings are set for Sunday, April 17 at 8 PM and Monday, April 18 at 3 PM, both at the Regal Cinema in Green Hills.

Shot in Super 8 during the course of John Mellencamp’s six-week 2009 summer tour with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. It’s About You chronicles the recording of No Better Than This, Mellencamp’s T Bone Burnett-produced album at three historic locations utilizing a single microphone and a mono tape recorder more than a half-century-old. This film is far removed from the conventions of standard-issue “rockumentaries” and serves as a think piece about the battering of American society by globalization and greed and the transitory nature of its cultural touchstones.

Markus was assisted in the project by his son Ian Markus, now a film student at the University of Montana. The filmmakers participating in a panel discussion entitled “The Making of It’s About You, A Super 8 Documentary” at the Austin Convention Center Room 13AB that starts at 5 PM.

Father and son followed Mellencamp to 26 cities in 18 states where they documented not only Mellencamp’s musical performances but also the context of these shows as economic upheaval and diaspora have changed American lives and landscapes. The film conjoins Mellencamp’s songs with images of a nation wracked by malaise and decline with contemplative narration written and voiced by the elder Markus.

It’s worth noting that Mellencamp’s journey is the film’s leitmotif but that the artist is never specifically interviewed; there are virtually no “talking heads” seen or heard in the naturalistic piece. This is not a retrospective film with interviews. It is of the moment.

The film visits the nation’s past through the prism of Mellencamp’s historically resonant recording venues: The First African Baptist Church in Savannah, GA where runaway slaves were hidden on their journey to Spanish-controlled Florida and to Sun Studio in Memphis where Mellencamp stood where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Howlin’ Wolf had before him. A recording session in Room 414 of San Antonio’s Gunter Hotel with Mellencamp in the same corner of the room where blues legend Robert Johnson had recorded “Come On In My Kitchen” and “Cross Road Blues” among others more than 70 years earlier is another highlight of No Better Than This.

Markus, who was born in Montana and still lives in that state, made his mark in landscape, figure study, celebrity, fashion and travel. The Cowboy Hall of Fame, Hills Gallery, Halsted Gallery, Staley-Wise Gallery, Gallery have mounted exhibitions of his work for Contemporary Photography and Galleria Photology.  Markus published several monographs, including After Barbed Wire, Buckaroo, Dreaming Georgia, Boxers, Cowpuncher, and Dune.

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