Louie Bluie

Director: Terry Zwigoff

Institute History

  • 1986 Sundance Film Festival


Louie Bluie presents the life and music of Howard Armstrong, who leads one of the last black string bands in America. The 76-year-old Armstrong is a fiddler, mandolinist, painter, raconteur, linguist, diarist, rogue and hardy survivor of a strong, rich culture.

Like his music—a mixture of blues, jazz, ragtime and gospel—Howard Armstrong seems caught somewhere between the country and city, past and present, sanctified and blasphemous. In one scene he reverently sings “When He Calls Me I Will Answer” with his sister-in-law, and then turns around and rails against “chicken-eating preachers” who are “nothing but legalized pimps.” Armstrong’s paintings and drawings are also featured in the film as he holds forth at a Chicago gallery featuring his work. His artwork too shows several sides, ranging from lovely sentimental landscapes and religious themes, to his “ABC’s of Pornography,” which he keeps locked up in a wooden carrying case. A unique performer and creator, naive and visionary, Howard Armstrong embodies the living tradition of rural black American culture.

Screening Details


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