Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Being Lincoln

I had the privilege of getting an early look at a film called Being Lincoln; Men With Hats. My high school friend Elvis Wilson, now an art director in Nashville, made the documentary with his wife about the men who make a living or at least a hobby of taking on the persona of Abraham Lincoln. The ones who are serious about it (and some are dead serious...so to speak) call themselves "presenters" as opposed to "impersonators." They not only look and dress like Honest Abe, but also tell his story and share who he was, as a political figure, a father, a husband, a man of faith. Given the pivotal role he played during a crucial time for our country and of our world, they give us an enlightening glimpse of our history and ourselves.

I couldn't resist getting my picture made with a president, never mind he's dead (this is live presenter Dennis Boggs). I did some magic to put us in a more appropriate setting. Click for more pics.

Which is not to imply the film is a history lecture; far from it. It's a fairly lighthearted glimpse into the lives of the presenters, covering several aspects of their unusual profession, why they do it, how they do it, and how people react to them (mostly favorably, but not in every case, according to several). Interviews and commentary are mixed in with footage that includes a lookalike contest, school presentation, and the preparation process. We follow one presenter in a stroll down Broadway in Nashville, stopping in to various honky tonks for a handshake, a warning about going to the "theater," and a dance. Those of us watching it in the Fort Negley Visitors Center theater laughed out loud at several places.

At the same time, the human stories played across the screen were often moving and inspiring. Their passion for history and the interest in the life of one of our most famous--and most controversial--leaders was contagious.

Also attending the preview were three local Lincoln presenters. They participated with the filmmakers in a lively question and answer period after the film, fielding inquiries about Lincoln and about their own interest in portraying him.

After a few tweaks here and there are completed, I fully expect to see this film on PBS, and not just locally. It's that good, and it's that interesting. Elvis also hopes to get distribution in theaters as an indie film. There's no such thing as too many connections, so if you know anyone that can help, let me know, or contact Elvis via the website. And I don't be surprised if he's less than impressed with any John Wilkes Booth jokes you might come up with; apparently he's heard a few already. I'm open, though; take your best shot.

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