Freedom Summer 1964
Freedom Summer 1964

From director Sam Pollard, narrated by Common, who also produces, comes a documentary about the search for two forgotten blues singers, set in Mississippi during the height of the civil rights movement.

Titled “Two Trains Runnin’,” the feature-length documentary, featuring the music of Gary Clark Jr., pays tribute to a pioneering generation of musicians and cuts to the heart of our present moment, offering a crucial vantage from which to view the evolving dynamics of race in America.

Synopsis: In June of 1964 hundreds of college students, eager to join the civil rights movement, traveled to Mississippi, starting what would be known as Freedom Summer. That same month, two groups of young men–made up of musicians, college students and record collectors–also traveled to Mississippi. Though neither group was aware of the other, each had come on the same errand: to find an old blues singer and coax him out of retirement. Thirty years before, Son House and Skip James had recorded some of the most memorable music of their era, but now they seemed lost to time. Finding them would not be easy. There were few clues to their whereabouts. It was not even known for certain if they were still alive. And Mississippi, that summer, was a tense and violent place. With hundreds on their way to teach in freedom schools and work on voter registration, the Ku Klux Klan and police force of many towns vowed that Freedom Summer would not succeed. Churches were bombed, shotguns blasted into cars and homes. It was easy to mistake the young men looking for Son House and Skip James as activists. Finally, on June 21, 1964, these two campaigns collided in memorable and tragic fashion.

The film tells this remarkable story, revisiting an important moment when America’s cultural and political institutions were dramatically transformed. The movie is all the more pointed and relevant today, in an era of renewed attention on police brutality and voting rights.

Featured in the documentary are Son House, Skip James, Common, Gary Clark Jr., Lucinda Williams, Buddy Guy, Valerie June, John Fahey, and North Mississippi Allstars.

Written By Benjamin Hedin, and produced by Hedin, Dava Whisenant, Common, and Derek Dudley, “Two Trains Runnin'” most recently screened as part of the New York Film Festival Spotlight on Documentary series last month, at Lincoln Center.

The film is now set to screen in a limited theatrical tour around the country, with dates set for NYC (Museum of the Moving Image, January 27); February 18 in Oxford, MS; February 24 in Nacagdoches, TX; and March 16 in Red Wing, MN.

It will also screen at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands, on January 31.

Visit the film’s website for ticket information and future playdates:

Pollard, once an editor of Spike Lee films, continues to add to his documentary directing credits which include the previously-released “Slavery by Another Name” and “August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand” (both in the last 4 years) and others, as well as the upcoming “Maynard” on Maynard Jackson, the first African American to be elected mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, and the first black mayor of any major southern city; and an ambitious documentary on John Coltrane.

Watch a trailer for “Two Trains Runnin'” below: