This September, the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival will feature a documentary about an IU Professor of Folklore entitled “Henry Glassie: Field Work.” The documentary showcases the professor’s life’s work in studying the artistic works of various ethnic and cultural groups around the world.
“I don’t study people,” Glassie said in the documentary. “I stand with people and study the things they create.”
The documentary follows the director, Pat Collins, and Glassie as they visit artists and artisans in Brazil, Turkey, Ireland and North Carolina and interview them about their craft.
In the more than seven decades of his life, Glassie has made it his personal mission to document and explore the artisanship and artistry of cultures whose stories aren’t well known in the United States. Glassie’s work has brought him into contact with innumerable distinct craftspeople, from Brazilian sculptors and metal workers, to rug makers and weavers in Turkey.
Collins became familiar with Glassie’s work through an interview on an Irish radio station. Glassie’s knowledge and articulation enchanted the filmmaker, who began corresponding with Glassie for years before meeting in person and proposing the idea to make a film.
The documentary, which is ostensibly about observing the artistry of many cultures, is told through the lens of Glassie’s unparalleled experience and insight. Glassie was initially hesitant to appear in the film himself, as he wanted the documentary to focus solely on the works he had been studying for decades.
“Though I did convince him to sit down for one interview, it wasn’t until we reached his home in Bloomington, Indiana, that we sat him down and spent two days asking him questions,” Collins said in a press release. “Henry’s ideas were the glue that would bring the film together.”
“Henry Glassie: Field Works” will be shown as part of the “Contemporary World Cinema” program at the Toronto International Film Festival, which will take place from Sept. 5–Sept. 15.