Ten Must-See Free and Streaming Documentaries on Asheville and Western North Carolina

National Geographic Travel: Asheville By Design

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Asheville has a history of craft and creativity, cool mountain air, and breathtaking attractions.

Watch full episode here

Moog | A Documentary Film by Hans Fjellestad

Moog, the film, takes us inside the mind of this legendary figure as he shares his ideas about creativity, design, interactivity and spirituality. To this day Moog continues to shape musical culture with some of the most inspiring instruments ever created. Purchase DVD here.

The Day Carl Sandburg Died

 Produced by Asheville’s Bonesteel Films, a dynamic exploration into the life and work of the iconic American writer, Carl Sandburg. The film delves into the complex social and political events that shaped his life and his work while celebrating his contributions in poetry, history, journalism, music and children’s literature with a modern perspective. Premiering in September 2012 on PBS’ American Masters, the film has won several awards.

“Equal parts poet, troubadour, journalist, historian and philosopher, Carl Sandburg was a true iconoclast and stood as one of the most towering and singular cultural figures of the 20th century.”


Fully Awake: Black Mountain College

Black Mountain College (1933-1957) was an influential experiment in education in Western North Carolina that inspired and shaped 20th century modern art. The film uses narration, archival photography, and interviews with former students, teachers, and historians to explore the schools beginnings, its unique education methods, and how its collaborative curriculum inspired innovation that changed the very definition of art.

View for free (with trail subscription at Fandor)

Buskin’ Blues

The Soundtrack of a City has Many Stories, and One Code.

Oral historian Erin Derham discovers a subculture of artists sharing select spaces in downtown Asheville, North Carolina to awaken passersby to musical traditions across space and time. On one corner, a stride pianist bangs a chord out with his elbow to deliver the sounds of Prohibition-Era jazz. On another, a lady runs a pair of antique spoons down her fingers in a centuries-old fashion kept alive almost exclusively by her, setting the rhythm for an Irish Folk Quartet. Across the street, the sounds of ancient India are heard from a man hypnotizing crowds with a didgeridoo, hang drum, and throat singing. Buskers come from as far as Europe and Asia to play, learn, and receive the famous hospitality of the American South. Staying true to that reputation, these exceptional talents whose music is never ignored but whose faces are often forgotten, allow Derham a rare and intimate glimpse into their lives which will confront everything you’ve ever thought about the people who bring music to our streets. Filled with passionate live performances, arresting personal insights, hilarious stories from the street, and tender moments between total strangers, Derham illuminates the culture and personalities that dare to destroy the invisible barriers we set between ourselves and our streets: “Buskin’ Blues.”


Music Features:
Peter Levitov and Maxime le Royer
Album: Life is Good
Purchase here: peterlevitovmaximeleroyer.bandcamp.com/track/whales

Julian Price

Using his family wealth, tenacity, witty, and incorrigible charm, Julian Price inspires policymakers and entrepreneurs to do the impossible — transform a vacant, deserted downtown into a livable, vibrant center of commerce and culture.

Driven by the beauty of its landscape and the potential in its vacant Art Deco architecture, Price searches Asheville for the brave, hardworking dreamers, and provides them with a miracle — capital for expansion in exchange for improving downtown with their presence.

This film was paired with a compilation album between bands spanning all genres and the Asheville Symphony Orchestra. Bands include Steep Canyon Rangers, LIzz Wright, Rising Appalachia, Lovett, Doc Aquatic, and Matt Tonwsend. Grammy winning composers arranged the music to pair beautifully with Julian’s story of collaboration and intention.

“Julian Price” is a must-see for anyone who loves living in or visiting Asheville and solidifies Derham’s status as an elite filmmaker.” – Edwin Arnaudin for the Asheville Citizen-Times

Directed by: Erin Derham

Trailer edited by: Erin Derham
Graphics by: Robert Klein
Scored by: Ben Lovett
Music by: Doc Aquatic and The Asheville Symphony Orchestra

Music by Asheville Symphony Sessions Album

Trail of Tears

Narrated by James Earl Jones, “Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy” explores one of the great historical tragedies of America’s aboriginal people. In 1830, eager to gain access to lands inhabited by Native Americans, President Andrew Jackson enacted the Indian Removal Act which forced the Cherokee Nation to leave their homeland and relocate into unchartered territory. Many of these forced settlers suffered from exposure, disease and starvation during the relocation. Nearly one quarter of the Cherokee Nation died along the way.

View part one here

View part two here

This is the Last Dam Run of Likker I’ll Ever Make

Popcorn Sutton had made a home movie of himself making moonshine in 1998, which he sold on VHS tape out of his Maggie Valley Junk shop, at the bend of the road heading out of town towards Soco Gap and Cherokee. The film had the same title as his self-penned book, “Me and My Likker,” and was re-released by Sutton in 2009 as “Popcorn Sutton Making Likker a Long Time Ago.” After working with Neal Hutcheson on the documentary film Mountain Talk (released in 2002), the two teamed up to produce a new film with Popcorn making moonshine. Hutcheson produced the first cut for Popcorn to sell and it was available for many years exclusively on VHS tape from the man himself. The footage was reworked into the award-winning PBS release “The Last One” (released in 2008) However, the legend of the original film, “last run,” was growing even as it was becoming almost impossible to find. The film was remastered and released as a bonus feature with the 10th anniversary edition of “The Last One” in 2012.

America’s First Forest: Carl Schenck and the Asheville Experiment

Based on Dr. Carl Alwin Schenck’s memoir Cradle of Forestry in America, AMERICA’S FIRST FOREST: CARL SCHENCK AND TEH ASHEVILLE EXPERIMENT examines the pivotal role played by pioneering forestry educator Carl Schenck and his founding of America’s first school of forestry-the Biltmore Forest School. Through archival photos, historical re-enactments and contemporary interviews, the documentary recounts how Schenck, a German forester, came to America in 1895 to manage the forests at George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate in western North Carolina. With more than 100,000 acres of woodland to oversee and replant, Schenck began hiring young men to help with the work. After three years of answering their questions while on the job, the forester decided to teach them in a more formal setting and established the first forestry school in the United States. Schenck lectured in the mornings and students worked the land in the afternoons, gaining practical forestry training in a one-year program. Despite eventually being dismissed by Vanderbilt and returning to Germany, Schenck’s unheralded leadership while at the Biltmore Forest (now preserved and celebrated as the Cradle of Forestry in America) was central to the conservation movement and the emergence of professional forestry.

Stream here

Purchase DVD here

The Mystery of George Masa

The Mystery of George Masa details the life of Masahara Izuka, (AKA George Masa) a Japanese immigrant who came to the Southern Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina in 1915, where he focused his camera and his passions on preserving the beauty of the wilderness he discovered. Eighteen years after his arrival, his death left behind thousands of photographs and an impressive legacy that included a role in the founding of two great national treasures, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Appalachian Trail. However, throughout his life in America he was secretive about his past, with no one knowing the details of his life experience and his inner passions.

Told through rare interviews with living acquaintances, notable historians, artists, and a vast collection of Masa’s letters, journals and photographs, director Paul Bonesteel weaves a complex story of Masa’s personal journey while paralleling the movement toward a wider appreciation and conservation of the natural world. Since it’s release, The Mystery of George Masa has encouraged a modern rediscovery of Masa’s artistry and achievements.

Stream here


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