New documentary explores untold tales of native moonshine historical past

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Cody Johnson and his family are recorded in the film.  Here he is interviewed by David Weintraub, director of the Center for Cultural Preservation.

Everything we know about moon tailors and moonlight history is wrong.

This is one of the themes of the Center for Cultural Preservation’s new documentary about the regional moonshine story “The Spirits Still Move Them”.

Award-winning director / producer of 40 history films, David Weintraub, interviews nearly three dozen moon tailors and their families in western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and the dark corner of South Carolina to tell a story of the history of moonlight that has never been was previously told.

“The myth that all moon tailors are violent, lazy, drunk criminals who hide in the forest with long beards and lengthy arrest records has been told by the media for over 100 years,” Weintraub said that only the most entrepreneurial farmers did what they did did to get through difficult circumstances and put food on the table. It’s a fascinating story, and far more interesting than the myths and distortions we’ve heard. ”

The film digs deep into the history of Southern Appalachia, revealing the stereotypes and inventions of mountaineers who have made movies and cable television programming for generations from the Beverly Hillbillies to the Moonshiner Show.

Cody Bradford, fifth generation moonlight and owner of Howling Moon Distillery in Asheville, says, “People think all moonlights are illegal, but it was the federal government that passed an excise tax after the Civil War that poor farmers had to pay. It was either starving or drinking and it’s not hard to understand which one they chose. ”

Bradford and his family are featured in the film, as are Moon Tailors from Yancey County to Spartanburg County. What is most surprising to many is that many of the moon tailors were African American, women, and Native Americans. And this moonlight has played a central role in medicine since the civil war.

The new movie will premiere in the Western North Carolina area June 17-20, and all COVID social distancing guidelines will go into effect. Each screening begins with bluegrass music by the Apple Country Bluegrass Band that appears in the film, and after each screening there is a discussion with the director and local Moonshinern.

The Spirits Still Move Them will be on Thursday, June 17 at 7 p.m. at The Orange Peel in Asheville, on Friday, June 18 at 8 p.m. at North River Farms in Mills River as a drive-in, and on Sunday, June 20 June, premiered at 8 p.m. at the Southern Appalachian Brewery in Hendersonville. All external locations are subject to weather data if necessary.

Ticket prices vary depending on the location. Advance reservations are strongly recommended due to the high demand and expected sales. Order online at www.saveculture.org or call the center at (828) 692-8062. Ticket buyers receive a $ 5 discount off the price of the DVD if they purchase it in advance.

This film is made possible by the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership, the Henderson County Community Foundation and North Carolina Humanities. The Center for Cultural Preservation is a nonprofit nonprofit organization committed to promoting the continuity of mountain heritage through oral history, documentary, education, and public programs. For more information about the center, call (828) 692-8062 or www.saveculture.org

Cody Bradford, fifth generation moonlight and owner of Howling Moon Distillery in Asheville, explains how moonlight is made.