News Column

Owensboro stars in documentary

August 6, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 06--With "Owensboro: Portrait from Middle America," Keenan Powell has merged his love of history and filmmaking.

The documentary will premiere at 7 p.m. Friday and show again at 7 p.m. Saturday at Theatre Workshop of Owenbsoro's Trinity Centre, 407 W. Fifth St. It was produced by his company, South Cicero Media.

It features black-and-white clips and photographs of early Owensboro life, present-day scenes and interviews with Mayor Ron Payne, Judge-Executive Al Mattingly, longtime journalist Keith Lawrence and the Rev. Larry Birkhead, among other residents.

Powell said he was inspired to start the documentary by the opening of Smothers Park last August.

In the film, Payne refers to downtown Owensboro as "the most exciting place in the state of Kentucky, if not the region."

"I hope that with the film, 50 years from now, people will have an idea of what Owensboro was at this time," Powell said. "It'd be hard to make a definite film right now because (the city) is constantly changing."

Though he's made five other documentaries, including "Before I Sleep: Remembering John Kennedy" and "Blood, Toil, Tears & Sweat: The Saga of WWII," Powell said his recent effort is the most involved.

"The others were mostly old clips and narration, some interviews," he said. "This has far more interviews. The mayor, the judge-executive, everyone was really receptive. Those two have seen it, and they've told me they loved the film."

The documentary highlights the bright sides of Owensboro, such as the development, but Powell didn't shy away from asking his interviewees about the trouble spots, such as teen pregnancy rates, substance abuse, homelessness and recovering from the economic downturn.

Though lacking in some aspects, Powell said he's proud of "Owensboro: Portrait from Middle America."

"I wish it was more diverse," he said, noting that he would consider a more inclusive follow-up.

Powell, who grew up on Chicago's South Cicero Avenue, has lived in Owensboro for 11 years. His interest in film came during a family trip to Universal Studios in California in 1970 when the tour guides demonstrated a few production tasks. He was also inspired by a the silent film version of "Phantom of the Opera" that he saw at Disneyland. It reminded him of the silent comedies he often saw as a boy at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, he said.

His next project, due in 2014, will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. The documentary will also show at 7 p.m. Aug. 30 and 31 at Evansville Civic Theatre Annex, 717 N. Fulton Ave. Evansville.Admission is $5 at all shows. For more information or to purchase the DVD, see southciceromedia.net.

Angela Oliver, 691-7360, aoliver@messenger-inquirer.com

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(c)2013 the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.)

Visit the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.) at www.messenger-inquirer.com

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