Henry Glassie: Field Work is a magisterial portrait of the most renowned American folklorist and ethnologist, Henry Glassie, now in his seventies. With a view of Glassie’s life’s work, the film displays the director’s trademark eye for details of the deepest significance, and celebrates the people with whom he stands and their work. Glassie’s subject is folklore but his abiding love for the people who create it resonates throughout the film.
Glassie’s long professional life encompasses the people and folklore of his native southern states; from the sublime vocal purity of Ola Belle Reed whom he befriended and recorded in the 1960s, to the potters, sculptors, metal workers, gilders and painters of sacred art in Brazil; the ceramic masters and the women rug makers and weavers of Turkey; and the story tellers and singers of Ballymenone on the Northern Irish border. Filmed in Brazil, Ireland and the USA in Glassie’s presence, artists like the sculptor Edival Rosas from Salvador City describe their practice as one where body and spirit are integrated, where in Glassie’s words the creative act brings ‘a momentary fulfillment of what it is to be human’.