SCREENING (director Q&A): 13 November 2022 at 17:00

London - Curzon Soho



Dir. Bestor Cram, USA, 2022, 86 min

Ever since the call and response musical idiom migrated from Africa to North America via the slave trade that fuelled the United States’ development and became woven into its social fabric, the blues has been part of the foundation of American culture shared with the world. The modern blues has its roots in the Mississippi Delta, whose blistering sun and exploitive plantations many African American musicians left behind in “the great migration”, in search of a life free from poverty in the North.

Born in Tunica, Mississippi in 1935, James Henry Cotton journeyed to Chicago to spend 12 years playing harmonica with Muddy Waters. It was the start of a five-decade career in which he transformed the sound of the blues as Mr. Super Harp, becoming an influential harmonica player, singer and band leader at a time when “the blues had a baby and they called it rock ‘n’ roll”. A chronicle of a time of social upheaval, Cotton’s life story is one of overcoming overwhelming hardship and racial obstacles while engaged in an immersive music lesson with the best exponents of this original art form. Millions of Americans participated in the great migration, but few had the combination of ambition and talent to end up on the world’s stage.

BONNIE BLUE: JAMES COTTON’S LIFE IN THE BLUES spotlights an artist whose drive enabled success, but required redemption from a lifestyle consumed by the road. Along with interviews with musicians including Buddy Guy, Billy Branch, Bobby Rush, Steve Miller and Jimmie Vaughan, live performances and archival footage offer an authentic portrait of Cotton’s harmonica power and enduring musical influence. Cotton’s music is an expression of the exhilaration he found in bearing witness to music’s ability to make overt social barriers become invisible, to bring people together, and to touch the heart by living the blues.

Event supported by the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery.