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Local musicians bring 'The Mountain Minor' to life on WCET-TV

The Tillers in The Mountain Minor. Credit  Alt452 Productions.jpg
Courtesy Alt452 Productions
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The Tillers (from left) Aaron Geil, Mike Oberst, Sean Geil and Joe Macheret performs as the. Willie Abner Band in the opening scene of the film shot at the Southgate House Revival in Newport.

Film about Kentucky family migrating to Cincinnati airs nine times on area public television stations before Christmas.

You'll see lots of familiar faces in The Mountain Minor, a film about a family migrating to Cincinnati from Eastern Kentucky during the Great Depression airing 3 p.m. Sunday on on WCET-TV (Channel 48).

Mike Oberst and his band The Tillers, Ma Crow and Judy and Warren Waldron appear in the film produced by Cincinnati native Susan Pepper, an old-time musician now based in North Carolina.

Dale Farmer of Camden, in Preble County north of Oxford, wrote and directed the film, loosely based on his grandparents, who moved from Kentucky to Cincinnati in the 1930s. The story is told through Charlie Abner (Dan Gellert), who dreams of returning to his Kentucky hometown after being uprooted as a boy when the Abner family moved to Cincinnati.

“I wanted the musical performances to look and sound authentic,” says Farmer about his decision to cast musicians instead of actors in the film.

"I thought it would be easier to teach musicians how to act than to teach actors how to play music or sync their performances to studio recordings," says Farmer in a media release.

Warren and Judy Waldron in The Mountain Minor. Credit Alt452 Productions.jpg
Courtesy Alt452 Productions
Warren and Judy Waldron of Oxford portray Tom Abner and Granny Whit in the film.

The Internet Movie Database says "The Mountain Minor is unique in that all of its principal actors are traditional musicians – such as Smithsonian Folkways artist Elizabeth LaPrelle and acclaimed banjoist and fiddler Dan Gellert - and they perform all of the music in the film. Deeply infused with the traditional Appalachian musical genres of Old Time and Bluegrass, The Mountain Minor tells an overlooked story about the people and culture behind the resurgence of American Roots music today and highlights artful responses to the difficult circumstances of human migration."

Pepper, who plays banjo, guitar and mandolin, performs an original song, "Short Time Here, Long Time Gone" in the soundtrack. She also appears in the film as Sandra Abner, Charlie's granddaughter.

Susan Pepper producer of The Mountain Minor. Credit Alt452 Productions.jpg
Courtesy Alt452 Productions
Producer Susan Pepper, as Sandra Abner, also performs her original song, "Short Time Here, Long Time Gone" in the soundtrack.

Other area people in the film include:

  • Ma Crow, an old-time musician based in Northern Kentucky, plays the adult version of Ruth Abner, who moved to Cincinnati as a child.
  • Mike Oberst, co-founder and lead singer of Cincinnati's The Tillers band, plays Willie Abner, Charlie's grandson who moved to Cincinnati as a child but never forgot the music of his childhood. The Tillers perform in the movie as the fictional Willie Abner Band in the opening scene of the movie, which was filmed at the Southgate House Revival in Newport.
  • Judy Waldron, an Oxford musician, plays Granny Whit. Her husband Warren plays Tom Abner, Charlie's grandfather in Eastern Kentucky.
  • Amy Cogan Clay, also an Oxford musician, plays Dellie Abner, Charlie's grandmother.

The film, released in 2019, had a limited theatrical release because of the pandemic, which closed theaters in early 2020. It will be broadcast nine times before Christmas on WCET-TV (Channel 48), WCET-TV Arts (Channel 48.3), and Dayton's WPTD-TV (Channels 16 and 16.2).

The Mountain Minor airs at 3 p.m. Sunday Nov. 14 on Channel 48; 8 p.m. Thanksgiving on Channel 48.3; 5 p.m. Friday Nov. 26 Channel 48.3 and 9 p.m. Friday Nov. 26 on Channel 16; 3 and 10 p.m. Saturday Nov. 27 on Channel 48.3, and 9 p.m. Nov. 27 on Channel 16.2; 2 p.m. Sunday Nov. 28 on Channel 16.2; and 9 p.m. Dec. 23 on Channel 48.