JIG SHOW!? Documentary Title Draws Controversy

Filmmaker Unearths A Little Known American Entertainment Legacy
Filmmaker Leslie Cunningham
Filmmaker Leslie Cunningham
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Documentary Film
Filmmaker Leslie Cunningham


Durham - North Carolina - US

DURHAM, N.C. - March 30, 2015 - PRLog -- Jiggaboo…jigga…jigger…jig. As a journalist and documentary filmmaker, Leslie Cunningham is compelled to search out truth in her work and without bias of her own positionality in the world or in relation to the subject. Thus, she admits she was offended when she learned her grandfather’s show, Harlem in Havana, was considered the carnival ‘Jig Show’.

In her forthcoming documentary film, JIG SHOW | Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana, Cunningham takes viewers on a magical journey under the carnival bigtop. The film tells the story of Leon Claxton and his wildly popular stage production, Harlem in Havana, an epic Black and Cuban musical that profoundly impacted North American entertainment. Labeled a ‘Jig Show’ by the outdoor entertainment industry and mainstream media of the day, Harlem in Havana helped launch the careers of entertainment heavyweights Chuck Berry, Mercedes Valdez, Rufus Thomas and Fontella Bass. The show played a major role in shaping American pop culture during the turbulent Jim Crow era and social revolution in Cuba.

“In my lifetime, I’ve known the term ‘jiggaboo’, as an insult to black people, and I immediately made this connection. The idea of calling my new documentary film JIG SHOW made me very uncomfortable and continues to make me uncomfortable, as I suspect it will make others uncomfortable as well, "says Cunningham who has already received several requests from Harlem in Havana show fans to reconsider the film title. Yet, the more she became aware of the power and punch this three-letter word held in the progress of this project, the more Cunnigham become aware of the inevitability of her film title.

During her research, Cunningham found an etymology of the term ‘jig’ born in the European renaissance, in celebration- play and dance to song- that devolved into a racist slur that found a temporary and perplexing home on the pages of Billboard magazine as Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana endeared fans in communities across North America, west of the Mississippi. This so-called ‘jig’ show became a gem in the cap of the world’s largest carnival, while performers of color back east bumped painfully against the walls of the Chitlin Circuit or the coveted few opportunities in America’s major cities.

Cunningham came to understand this word and classification reached beyond the politics of the day as do the discourses on race engaged by her grandfather, Leon Claxton’s show.  A journey into the complexity of American entertainment and race history, JIG SHOW | Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana, seeks to tell the most honest story.

Currently in early production, the provocative film is slated for release in December 2015, This April, Cunningham plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign in partnership with the Southern Documentary Fund to help defray production costs. Learn more about the film at jigshow.com (http://www.jigshow.com/) or harleminhavana.com (http://www.harleminhavana.com/).

About Leslie Cunningham: Leslie Cunningham is an independent filmmaker, artist, writer, journalist and founder of TRIBES Entertainment, an award-winning digital media and production company based in Durham, North Carolina. Driven by a passion for storytelling, Leslie is a graduate of The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University with a Certificate in Documentary Arts. Her debut feature film documentary, M.I., A Different Kind of Girl (2012), was selected for such film festivals as the 2014 Gender Reel film festival; The 2012 North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and Atlanta’s 2012 Out On Film. M.I. also paved the way for more projects that would educate, entertain and feature provocative subjects and subject matter. As Owner and Creative Director for TRIBES, Leslie brings this wealth of industry knowledge to her client, film and journalism work.

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Tags:Documentary Film, HARLEM in HAVANA, Filmmaker Leslie Cunningham
Location:Durham - North Carolina - United States
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