The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection welcomes Peabody Award winning documentary film producer George King to Athens for a screening of his newest film, “Thumbs Up for Mother Universe- Stories from the Life of Lonnie Holley.” The screening is free and open to the general public as well as UGA faculty, students, and staff. Following the screening, Peabody Awards Archivist Mary Miller will lead a conversation with filmmaker George King and other special guests.
“Thumbs Up for Mother Universe” was an official selection at the Cucalorus Film Festival; Richmond International Film Festival, Montgomery Film Festival, Baltimore International Black Film Festival, Charlotte Film Festival, Tallahassee Film Festival, and Toronto Black Film Festival. It has won Best Documentary at the Harlem International Film Festival (New York) and Black Harvest Film Festival (Chicago) and Audience Favorite awards at the Venice (California) Fine Arts Film Festival and the TallGrass Film Festival. Leslie Umberger, Smithsonian Museum curator of Folk and Self-Taught Art, has called it “sensitive, moving, and powerful...such an important project!”
After the world gave up on Lonnie Holley, the Universe sent him the gift of art. Born one of 27 children in Jim Crow Alabama, Holley was stolen away as an infant and sold for a pint of whiskey. Growing up in grinding poverty and abuse on society’s margins left its scars. At age 28, Holley discovers making things quiets the demons that haunt him to this day. He begins to make art out of what the rest of us throw away—trash, garbage and debris. Now, in his 70’s, his artwork sits in the Smithsonian, the National Gallery, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, while his music has garnered international critical acclaim for its stirring soulful depth. Twenty-two years in the making, “Thumbs Up for Mother Universe” tells the story of how Lonnie Holley overcame the longest of odds to become an unlikely art superstar. The film also reveals Holley’s creative process—his insights into conservation, ecology and the environment, and his sources of deep inspiration rooted in southern life and African American history and culture. More than anything else, Holley has said, “I want to see beauty.” And if it’s not present, he will create it.
Filmmaker George King is a writer/producer/director of nonfiction film, television and radio projects. His work has consistently won national and international awards, including a 1997 Peabody Award for the radio documentary “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” King’s work addresses diverse subjects including race, civil rights, art & culture, the environment, labor, education, poverty, housing, and community development.