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Posted Sept 28, 2007

APT To Air "Mr. Dial" Documentary

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., September 28, 2007—Alabama Public Television's award-winning documentary division has produced a new, one-hour, high-definition film titled "Mr. Dial Has Something to Say," which is scheduled to air statewide on APT October 16, 2007. The documentary, which includes an original soundtrack produced and created by Alabama hip hop and spoken-word artists, explores the Southern African-American visual arts counterpart of jazz and the blues—and its exclusion by the elite art world. It focuses on 79-year-old Alabama contemporary artist Thornton Dial, who was promoted by art collector William Arnett in the late ‘80s. With Arnett’s help, Dial’s art became widely popular and was displayed by many internationally renowned venues including the New Museum of Contemporary Art and the Whitney in New York City. The documentary, which spurs the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions regarding the definition of art, features interviews with civil rights leader and former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, Jane Fonda, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute President Dr. Lawrence Pijeaux, Jr. and many respected art curators, historians and critics. Immediately following the film, APT will air a special call-in program, “The Art World Has Something to Say,” moderated by former APT “For the Record” host, Tracy Larkin. A panel of art professionals will discuss what constitutes art and artistic expression as well as comment on calls from viewers into the live show. “Mr. Dial Has Something to Say” has been accepted for inclusion in eleven national film festivals including The 9th annual Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in Birmingham. "Alabama has a wealth of stories, such as this one about an artist whose life encompasses many of the most consequential episodes in twentieth-century African-American life," says Allan Pizzato, executive director of Alabama Public Television. "APT is uniquely positioned to tell these stories and we take our role in preserving this history very seriously." Born in rural Emelle, Ala., Dial is a former migrant farmer and steel worker. He never received a formal education, yet has been hailed by critics as a genius for his multilayered works of art that feature recycled materials in shifting compositional relationships. He currently works out of a studio just outside of Birmingham. Georgia art historian and collector Arnett has authored six comprehensive books on the subject of Southern African-American art. He has promoted other artists in that genre—including the famed quiltmakers of Gee's Bend, Ala., the subjects of an earlier Emmy-award winning documentary from APT. Arnette found himself in a swirl of controversy following a 1993 television profile on “60 Minutes” in which he was accused of exploiting the artists he promoted. Celia Carey, director of documentary productions at Alabama Public Television, directed and produced the film. A promotional film of “Mr. Dial Has Something to Say” earned a regional Emmy award this year and a 20-minute documentary on Dial produced by Carey in 2006 also received a regional Emmy as well as earned The Golden Gate Award for Best TV Documentary, Short Form, at the 2006 San Francisco International Film Festival and the Audience Choice Award at last year's Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. The original soundtrack was produced by Patrick Johnson and executive-produced by Celia Carey. “We are delighted to have Celia and her work honored in this way,” noted Pizzato. “Our mission is to be Alabama’s storyteller and educational resource. “Thornton Dial” is a success story on both fronts.” “Mr. Dial Has Something to Say” was made possible by major grants from the Alabama Educational Television Foundation Authority, Alabama Power Company, The Daniel Foundation of Alabama, The Alabama State Council on the Arts, Mr. and Mrs. Wyatt R. Haskell, the National Endowment for the Arts and The Stephens Foundation.

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