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Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts
**WINNER! Jury Prize for Freedom Award at 2019 Fine Arts Film Festival**
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Certified Fresh with 100% on Rotten Tomatoes!
Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts is a feature documentary film exploring the life of a unique American artist, a man with a remarkable and unlikely biography. Bill Traylor was born into slavery in 1853 on a cotton plantation in rural Alabama. Using historical and cultural context, the film is designed to bring the spirit and mystery of Traylor’s incomparable art to life. After the Civil War, Traylor continued to farm the land until the late 1920s. Aging and alone, he moved to Montgomery and worked odd jobs in the thriving segregated black neighborhood. A decade later, in his late 80s, Traylor became homeless and started to draw and paint, both memories from plantation days and scenes of a radically changing urban culture. Traylor devised his own visual language to record the stories of his life, translating an oral culture into something original, powerful, and culturally rooted. He made well over a thousand drawings and paintings between 1939-1942. Traylor witnessed profound social and political change during his life spanning slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws, and the Great Migration. The transcendent surprise is while Traylor kept to himself leading an unassuming life, he was nurturing a remarkable creative gift that would not be expressed for decades. Tap dance, evocative period music and spoken word are used in dramatic and surprising ways in the film, balanced with archival photographs and footage, insightful perspectives from Traylor family members, and Traylor’s striking drawings and paintings, to reveal one of America’s most prominent artists to a wide audience.
USA, 2019, 75 minutes, Not Rated, Directed by Jeffrey Wolf
“Critic’s Pick! A sincere, nourishing account of the artist. Wolf makes excellent use of photo and film archives, laying out the territory that fed Traylor’s vision.”—Glenn Kenny, The New York Times
"Brings the spirit and mystery of Traylor’s art to life and shines a spotlight on a creative gift that was long ignored and marginalized."—Dave McNary, Variety
“Introduces to a wider audience one of the most important American artists of the 20th century, whose life traversed slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation, the Great Migration and each’s accompanying tumultuous social and political upheaval.”—Lisa Wong Macabasco, The Guardian
"Jeffrey Wolf’s exceptional documentary Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts seeks to tells its subject’s story in a deeply personal way, while also pulling back when needed to contextualize his work."—G. Allen Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle
“Speaks volumes on the life and times of the artist. The pieces themselves… lend those ghosts of his past a persistent, ethereal relevance.”—Michael Rechtshaffen, Los Angeles Times
"A spry and inventive account of extraordinary transcendence. Traylor was both an artist and a historian, and Chasing Ghosts is appropriately both a work of art and history—a beautiful film with a sense of swing and soul."—Chuck Bowen, Slant Magazine