Harmony Korine is having a great year. The release of Spring Breakers was the biggest critical and commercial success of his career. Meanwhile, the work of his father, Sol Korine, unfortunately still remains fairly obscure and unavailable. In 1981, Sol co-produced a ten-part series for PBS called Southbound with filmmaker Blaine Dunlap, documenting roots music throughout the southern United States. The first episode of the series is called Mouth Music, and with Harmony’s movies now reaching a wider audience there is no better time to discover this great little documentary. Viewed today, it almost seems that Harmony Korine’s directorial works — most notably Trash Humpers (2009) and Gummo (1997) — are nearly an extension of his father’s, both aiming to show the South, in all of its idiosyncratic wonder, as an animate and culturally rich section of America. The “mouth music” here ranges from kids jumping rope and chanting to an auctioneer selling cows, and it is all consistently remarkable to watch.
Moore: You used to travel around with carnivals?
Korine: Well, my dad made documentaries in the late ‘70s and ‘80s for this show on PBS called Southbound. He would go and make small films, kind of like what Harry Smith was doing with music, my dad would do with video at the time with his partner Blaine. One of the things was about this guy called Hamper McBee, who was a moonshiner and also a carnie, so I spent a lot of time with him as a kid.
Moore: What places, geographically?
Korine: Florida, the south mainly, because I was living in Tennessee.
Moore: You saw lots of carnie tricks?
Korine: Of course—it’s just life there. You see a lot of stuff. But there was an energy: something kind of strange and sinister, something fun, but something bubbling beneath the surface. Something really American.