Last night in a screening room lit by flickering candles at New York City’s exclusive Norwood Club, less than 40 people attended an intimate screening of Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison, the documentary about Cash‘s seminal live album currently making the international festival rounds. Rosanne Cash, director Bestor Cram and writer Michael Streissguth were on hand to field questions in a living-room-sized room that felt more like a hangout session than a screening.
The film tells the story of Folsom Prison — the song, the album and the prison itself — through interviews with former inmates, insight from band members, quirky animation breaks, stock footage and some circa-2000 voice-overs from Cash. No footage of the actual concert exists, so Cram had to tell his story with the 18 rolls of iconic film shot by photographer Jim Marshall and curated animations that he said “enhanced the act of listening.” “I get very tired looking at concert footage,” said Cram. “I was delighted when I met Mike and he said, ‘How about a concert film with no footage?'”
This evening marked the first time Rosanne had seen the film: “[Cram] sent me a clip of it and it made me cry, so I thought, ‘Let’s watch it with 40 people.'” Rosanne, who was 12 when the original concert occurred, adds candid commentary to the film about her father’s myth vs. his human reality. She said she originally turned down the filmmakers’ request for an interview (“My dad doesn’t need me to make him more famous”). However, the day after, she heard a car simply blasting “Folsom Prison Blues” at 6 in the morning outside her window. “I called Mike and said, ‘I’ll do it.'”
With attendance at $250 a head, all proceeds from the event went to PAX, a non-profit working to end gun violence against children. Said Rosanne, who has been a board member for about seven years: “I thought that [Johnny] would love that. That something about Folsom Prison helped prevent gun violence.”