Joe Murphy Documentary Film Festival celebrates professor

Sam Lineberger

In the wake of the news of Appalachian State University professor and award-winning filmmaker Joe Murphy’s retirement this semester, a Joe Murphy Documentary Film Festival will honor his 39-year legacy at Appalachian on Friday and Saturday.

Screenings of Murphy’s work will be held Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. in Room 124 of the Reich College of Education building. Admission is free. The festival features Murphy’s most acclaimed films, as well as the work of his video and audio production and documentary filmmaking students.

Professor of curriculum and instruction Joe Murphy (left) is probed with questions by practitioner-in-residence of curriculum and instruction Jeff Goodman (left) during a video production class last spring. Murphy, who will retire in May, has been with Appalachian for 39 years and spent 10 years as the Teaching Fellows advisory. This Friday at 6:30 p.m. the 2014 Joe Murphy Documentary Film Festival will kick off with "Doc and Merle" a film about the late musicians Doc and Merle Watson. Student work and other films by Joe will be shown at 2:30 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The screenings will happen in Riech College of Education in room 124 and admission is free.
Professor of curriculum and instruction Joe Murphy (left) is probed with questions by practitioner-in-residence of curriculum and instruction Jeff Goodman (left) during a video production class last spring. Murphy, who will retire in May, has been with Appalachian for 39 years and spent 10 years as the Teaching Fellows advisory. This Friday at 6:30 p.m. the 2014 Joe Murphy Documentary Film Festival will kick off with “Doc and Merle” a film about the late musicians Doc and Merle Watson. Student work and other films by Joe will be shown at 2:30 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The screenings will happen in Riech College of Education in room 124 and admission is free.

Born in Memphis, Tenn., Murphy said his interest in the filmmaking process began in his years as a Davidson College student. Though he studied economics as an undergrad, he never gave up on his interests.

“If you’re creative and you’re motivated, you’ll do it,” Murphy said.

Much of Murphy’s national reputation is as a documentarian of Southern culture. Two of his most famous films are 1985’s “Doc and Merle,” about the late Doc and Merle Watson, and “Slow Food: Fast Times,” which humorously examines the southeastern barbecue phenomenon.

“I’m part of [Southern culture],” Murphy said. “You can’t make films about something you don’t know about it, and not only to know it but to have access to the parts that are important. You have to have people trust you.”

Jeff Goodman, Murphy’s former student, long-time friend, collaborator, co-worker and the festival’s master of ceremonies elaborated on Murphy’s campus reputation.

“Joe is one of the most present people I know,” Goodman said. “When Joe is ‘on’—when he’s teaching and when he’s filming—he is so focused and so attentive to the interaction that he is completely in the moment.”

Goodman said that Murphy’s constant humor and investigative mind makes him one of the most loved faculty members on campus.

“I think he makes such an impression on students because of how knowledgeable he is about what he teaches in video and documentary production classes, but maybe even more because of how fun he is in and out of class,” senior English major Sarah Stankus said. “Not a single class with Joe will go by without something completely hilarious happening and the entire class breaking for hysterical laughter for several minutes.”

One of Murphy and Goodman’s collaborations has been their “Human Wonder Research” project, where the two mix home science experiments with retro-style documenting, which can easily be found on YouTube, Goodman said.

“What we’re interested in is what makes people get amazed, why can’t school have more of that, and how can we as teachers cultivate more of that,” Goodman said. “Joe is incredible at asking questions and generating enthusiasm especially when he’s behind the camera.”

Story: Sam Lineberger, A&E Reporter

Photo: Paul Heckert, Photo Editor