It’s a Mean Old World

This is a short preview trailer. You can watch the entire film at no charge on the Folkstreams website. Folkstreams is a nonprofit whose mission is to find, preserve, contextualize, and stream documentary films on American folklife.

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By the time It's A Mean Old World was filmed, Reverend Pearly Brown had been struggling to survive singing gospel music for nearly 40 years. While the rough sound of his bottleneck playing has the feel of a life spent scuffling on the street, the poignancy of his voice is a better measure of the gentle spirit and inner strength of the man. Around his neck he wears a brass sign which says, "God love a cheerful giver," and those who stop to give invariably stop to talk, much like they've run into an old friend. The film evokes the warmth and relaxed pace of life in small town America as it follows Pearly around his home town Americus, Georgia, and also captures several revealing private moments in Pearly's life. One scene is simply a picture of Pearly all alone in his sparsely furnished room, sitting on his bed playing a favorite Blind Willie Johnson record. In another, Pearly sits quietly at the dinner table while his girlfriend Christine whips up a big meal and unabashedly describes how they met. Pearly's life as a musician is illustrated in a variety of intimate performances: singing in front of the congregation at a small rural black church, leading a group of friends and family in "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," appearing in concert at a local college, and broadcasting on his radio program.

  • Film by: John English, William Vanderkloot, Robert L. Williams
  • Produced by: John L. English
  • Cinematographer: William Vanderkloot
  • Sound: Rob Williams
  • Editor: William Vanderkloot
  • Funding: National Endowment for the Arts, Georgia Endowment for the Humanities.
  • Original Format: Film: 16mm
  • © 1977, Education Through Visual Works, Inc.
  • 29mins, Color