‘Life on the Fringe of Society’

New Hubbard documentary
to be screened

Filmmaker Atkinson completes
project on story of late couple

By Don Ward

(November 2012) – The life and times of Harlan and Anna Hubbard will be featured in a new documentary film to be screened twice in November – the first at Louisville's Clifton Center at 7 p.m. on Nov. 12 and the second at 7 p.m. on Nov. 29 at Hanover College.

Clifton Center is located at 2117 Payne St. off Frankfort Ave. The Hanover College screening will take place at the Center for Fine Arts. Both events are free and open to the public.

Anyone who has never heard of the late couple who lived off the land on the Ohio River bank in Trimble County, Ky., will find these events educational and interesting. Bill Caddell of Frankfort, Ind., and who inherited much of Hubbard's woodcuts of art will display part of his collection at the Louisville screening.

Producer and writer Morgan Atkinson of Louisville has worked on the project for more than a year and generated private funding to produce it. The film, titled "Wonder: The Lives of Anna and Harlan Hubbard," may also be screened a third time at the Trimble County Public Library in Bedford, Ky., Atkinson said, and possibly more locations in the region.

The Rivers Institute at Hanover College provided a large donation toward the project, which Atkinson estimates to cost about $150,000. So far he has raised about half of that amount, adding that "sweat equity and donated services made up the difference between budget and money raised."

The Hubbards, who lived off the land along the Ohio River in Trimble County, Ky., were frequent visitors to the campus to loan books from the college library. Several of Harlan's paintings hang in a small room at the Brown Campus Center at Hanover College.

Anna died in 1986 and Harlan died in 1988 after spending their lives avoiding today's modern conveniences. Harlan wrote his many books and painted scenes of his life along the Ohio River. Many of his paintings featured steamboats or rural landscapes.

Several local people were interviewed for background for the film but none appear on camera. These include Bob Canida, Dr. Marcella Modisett, Bob Rosenthal and Paul Hassfurder, all of Madison, Ind. Canida and Hassfurder befriended and assisted the Hubbards during their lives. Harlan died at Canida's riverfront home and he owns several of Harlan's paintings. Upon his death, Harlan left his property to Hassfurder. Modisett was his physician. Rosenthal is a philosophy professor at Hanover College who took several student groups on field trips to the Hubbards' home over the years.

Atkinson has been recognized for his work profiling philosopher-monk Thomas Merton, the writer-social activist John Howard Griffin, Louisville musician Tim Krekel and many others.

Much of the narrative for “Wonder” came from the Hubbard’s journals. Their thoughts have been complemented by excerpts from Henry County, Ky., author Wendell Berry’s book on their lives. Berry has agreed to voice his work. Actor-musician Will Oldham serves as the voice of Harlan. Actress and teacher Katie Blackerby provides the voice of Anna. Musician-composer Ben Sollee has scored the documentary.

Atkinson has logged 30 years as a filmmaker, the past 25 running his own film production company, Duckworks Inc. He works on commission mostly but in this case has chosen to focus on the Hubbards.

He hopes to get the film aired statewide on Kentucky Educational Television and maybe even nationally on the Public Broadcast System. He began working on the project last year with a goal of researching and presenting the couple in a more personal way – a way that has not yet been seen by the public, he said.

Two previous KET documentaries have been done on the Hubbards – the first in 1980 by filmmaker John Morgan and the second in the mid-1990s for KET's "Kentucky Life" series.

Atkinson is a Louisville native and a University of Kentucky graduate who has made dozens of films, with about 15 airing on KET and several nationally on PBS. Atkinson was assisted on the project by a close friend, John Kasey.

More information is available on the documentary at www.MorganAtkinson.com.

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