Spotlight on the Arts: Focus on Film

MAHARAJAH4.jpgBayou Maharajah screening, Q&A sells out Ciné theatre

By Jessica Luton


Every seat in the house was filled at Cinè Monday night for the showing of Bayou Maharajah, a film directed by UGA alum Lily Keber and produced by UGA Grady telecommunications professor and Peabody Awards Associate Director Nate Kohn. 

The event was co-sponsored by Willson Center for Humanities and Arts and the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at UGA, in conjunction with the more than 60 events scheduled with the Spotlight on the Arts Festival this month.

With every seat in the house filled and many turned away, the show of support speaks volumes about the strength of UGA arts and UGA arts alumni in Athens. 

The film was made on a limited budget with the help of Kickstarter to get the final funding together for music licensing. As a UGA graduate, Keber reached out to Kohn for help.

The film centers on James Booker, a New Orleans piano legend who was known as quite the colorful character.

According to the film's website:

Bayou Maharajah explores the life and music of New Orleans piano legend James Booker, the man Dr. John described as “the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced.” A brilliant pianist, his eccentricities and showmanship belied a life of struggle, prejudice, and isolation. Illustrated with never-before-seen concert footage, rare personal photos and exclusive interviews, the film paints a portrait of this overlooked genius.


The film is witty and dark, humorous and sad—all at once a celebration of the complexity of James Booker, the city of New Orleans and the type of music that he ascribed to playing.  The film serves as a true character study, told through not only the eccentric characteristics of his personality and life, but also through the euphonious music he created. 

The use of James Bookers’ music, with a series of songs guiding the audience through his biographical profile, had the power to make the audience fall in love with his oft-forgotten music.

You can watch the trailer for the film here.   And there were requests from many in the audience last night, and those who couldn’t get a ticket, for another screening at Ciné in the future.  The filmmakers are currently trying to get the film into distribution. 

The Willson Center for Humanities and Arts brings more film fun to the Athens community later this week with a four-day festival celebrating the works of Jim McKay. The festival begins with an opening reception and viewing of Tourfilm Friday evening. You can view all of the Jim McKay film festival events here.

And don’t forget to peruse the calendar of events for the Spotlight on the Arts Festival that continues through the end of the week.  With so many arts events going on around town, surely there’s something that’ll spark your interest.