The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack

Director: Aiyana Elliott
Screenwriters: Dick Dahl, Aiyana Elliott

Institute History


Told from an insider’s point of view, The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack is an intimate portrait of an artist whose musical influence has resonated for generations.

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott is a folk hero’s hero, who learned to play the guitar from legend Woody Guthrie and others while sharing his experience with many who followed. The filmmaker is his daughter, Aiyana Elliott, who has chosen to make a personal film aboutthe unusual life of her father. She tells his almost-mythical life story while following him on a recent tour, exposing a side of Ramblin’ Jack no one has seen before.

Jack Elliott came from unlikely beginnings. A doctor’s son from Brooklyn, he ran away as a teenager to make his way in the world. Ramblin’ Jack has lived his life on the road, crisscrossing the country, hooking up with musicians, and simply playing his music. He became a father, though having a family did not easily fit into a ramblin’ man’s lifestyle; he caught up with his wife and daughter when he could. Aiyana takes a look at all the people who revered her father, while she and her mother were anxiously waiting for him to come home.

The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack smartly combines elements of personal documentary and a portrait of a legend while sprinkling in intimate performances. The film makes excellent use of footage of early performances of Ramblin’ Jack with various friends. The informal style allows an audience a unique and unforgettable opportunity to become familiar with this singular character.

— Lisa Viola

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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