Free Owsley Sunday Film: His Eye is on the Sparrow

Appalshop at 50

His Eye is on the Sparrow
Directed by Anne Lewis

Sunday, May 12, 1 pm


“Tells a story of resistance, a belief in freedom, and the importance of culture and religion in shaping community life.” —John David, Southern Appalachian Labor School

Ethel Caffie-Austin, a daughter of the coalfields, is West Virginia’s First Lady of Gospel Music. His Eye is on the Sparrow features Caffie-Austin performing a range of spirituals, hymns, and contemporary gospel numbers that represent the rich cultural heritage of African American song and worship. Caffie-Austin’s enthusiasm and belief in the redemptive power of faith are apparent as she is seen teaching gospel to a youth group, ministering to inmates at a state prison, and leading the choir at the Black Sacred Music Festival in Institute, West Virginia. Oral history, archival material, and interviews are combined with performance footage to tell a powerful story of personal freedom and triumph through faith, wisdom, and the support of a caring community.

Caffie-Austin has had numerous honors awarded her throughout the U.S. and Europe. She was a guest artist at Wolf Trap, has sung with Pete Seeger, and appeared on West Virginia’s Mountain Stage with Joan Baez, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and Kathy Mattea. She made her debut at the Kennedy Center for the Arts in Women of Gospel, a musical revue of great African-American female gospel music singers, in 1991. 2003, U.S., video, 28 minutes.  Recommended for all ages.

Appalshop at 50 is a year-long celebration of the non-profit organization based in Whitesburg, KY dedicated to production and presentation of the stories about Appalachia that commercial media doesn’t tell by challenging stereotypes, supporting grassroot efforts to achieve justice and equity, and celebrating cultural diversity. As part of the Speed’s celebration of the art of Kentucky, we will present work from Appalshop at one Owsley Free Sunday each month throughout 2019.