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Cultures and musical styles collide in this "making of the album" documentary. Jewish Appalachians + Jewish Ugandans = music history
309 backers pledged $17,480 to help bring this project to life.

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Jewish Appalachians? You don't really hear those two words in the same sentence. The same goes for "Jewish Ugandans."

Well, we've found groups of both. They may not have much in common. They may not even agree on What it means to be Jewish.

But both groups make music. Beautiful music.

And we want to bring them together to make an album. We want to take a small group of Jewish Appalachians to Uganda, get them in the studio, and see what happens.

In the end, we plan to have one of the most unique albums ever made. And a film that documents its making.

After the release of the film and album, our goal is to bring the Ugandan musicians to Appalachia to perform on the public radio program, Mountain Stage. Bringing the project full circle. 

Jon Matthews Director

  • Directed the feature documentary, "Surviving Cliffside," which premiered at the 2014 South by Southwest Film Festival;
  • 2014 Film Independent Documentary Lab Fellow;
  • Graduate of NYU's Graduate Film Program, where he was a Dean's Fellow, receiving a full tuition scholarship; 
  • Worked as Spike Lee's assistant at NYU;
  • Co-directed the feature "Black Dog, Red Dog," starring James Franco, Whoopi Goldberg, and Olivia Wilde.
Katy Scoggin, Cinematographer
Katy Scoggin, Cinematographer
  • Co-producer and camera operator on 2015 Academy Award winning documentary, Citizenfour
  • Recipient of the Alfred P. Sloan grant for her feature film project. 
  • Graduate of NYU's MFA Film Program. 

Two years ago, Ernest Adzentoivich and Mike Cohen traveled to Uganda to record the music of the Jewish Ugandans in the village of Putti. 

The result was a the acclaimed record, "I Love to Sing." 

Eventually, Ernest and Mike approached filmmaker, Jon Matthews, about making a documentary about this unique subculture: the Jewish Ugandans.

Around that same time, Jon was visiting his home state of West Virginia, where he met Rabbi James Cohn of Temple Israel in Charleston, West Virginia. 

This got Jon thinking about another unique subculture: the Jewish Appalachians. And sparked the idea of combining musicians from both groups, in order to make an album, and a film documenting this process. 

Together, Rabbi James Cohn, Mike Cohn, Ernest Adzentoivich, and Jon Matthews form the team of producers that will bring this film to life.

The Abayudaya are small community in eastern Uganda that practice Judaism. 

From Bible's left by Christian missionaries in the 1880s, the Abayudaya followed the 5 books of Moses (the Torah). And adopted their own form of Judaism. 

Despite decades of persecution, including that from Idi Amin, the Abayudaya have survived and continue to practice their unique form of Orthodox Judaism. 

Their music, as unique as their religion, combines traditional Ugandan melodies and rhythms with traditional Hebrew music and psalms. 

When you think of Jewish Americans, what comes to mind? Many think of big city folks. New Yorkers with accents like Woody Allen. 

But America's Jewish population isn't confined to its cities. While there are Jews in the high rises, they are also in the hills and hollows.

For our project, we go to West Virginia, the home state of our director, Jon Matthews, to cast the subjects for this film. 

One of these subjects is Mike Pushkin, who grew up in the West Virginia synagogue and attended Jewish summer camps. Today, Mike has a pretty unique life. He plays in a band. Drives a cab. And was recently elected into the West Virginia House of Delegates. 

When Mike isn't voting on legislation, he still drives a cab. And being Jewish, Mike was the only cab driver who agreed to work on Christmas. 

Mike is quite the unique individual. A Jewish Appalachian cab driver politician musician. And we can't wait introduce his unique music and personality to the people of Putti, Uganda. 

Another cast member is Dina Hornbaker. Dina grew up in Charleston, West Virginia. She is a multi-instrumentalist, song writer, and vocalist. Her musical inspirations are focused on female artists like Nina Simone, Alison Krauss, and Janis Joplin.

Mike and Dina are only two of a group of Jewish Appalachian musicians that we are casting. As a whole, this cast will represent a diverse group that vary in backgrounds and beliefs. 

Risks and challenges

One of the biggest challenges with any documentary is access. Sure you have a great story. But how do you access the individuals necessary to tell that story?

In our case, we have the benefit of having two producers, Ernest Adzentoivich and Mike Cohen, who have already spent time in Ugandan, establishing relationships, and making an album with the people of Putti.

And what about funding? Sure, Kickstarter is great. But is it going to raise enough budget for you to get to Uganda and complete your film?

The answer is "no." Kickstarter will give us a substantial start. And we won't be able to do it without you! But we are also relying on the support of private donors and investors who will help make this film possible.

What if your album fails? What if you get over there and the music stinks?

Well, that is a possibility. Just because we have two groups of talented musicians, doesn't necessarily mean they will make beautiful music together.

But that's what's going to make this a great film! The drama of whether it will happen or not. The conflicting musical tastes and opinions. Any band has disputes and artistic differences. Imagine a band of musicians with disparate tastes from different sides of the globe. That's what we have with our film! And this challenge these differences present is what's gonna make our film interesting!

The bottom line is that our main goal is not to create a successful album. Sure, that would be great. We'd love to give that gift to the world of music. But, our real goal is exploring identity. And the more specific we get with that question, the more universal the implications will be. Exploring the question of what it means to be Jewish will get at the deeper human question of "what makes us who we are" and why that is so important.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    FIRST SONG

    What will this Jewish Ugandan/Appalachian music sound like? Well, you'll be the first to find out!

    We'll be filming the making of this album. And you'll be the first to hear what the music sounds like.

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    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    "MIX TAPE"

    Five songs from our cast. Three from our West Virginians. Two from our Ugandans.

    Available via digital download.

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    DINA'S EP and MIKE'S EP

    Get the complete EP's of our Jewish Appalachian cast members, Mike Pushkin and Dina Hornbaker.

    Hear the mellifluous voice of Dina the visceral vocals of Mike in his band, 600 Pounds of Sin. Plus, get get the "Mix Tape" of the two groups.

    Available via digital download.

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    JEWISH UGANDAN ALBUM

    The celebrated album, "I Love to Sing," recorded in the Putti Village by our producers Mike Cohen and Ernest Adzentoivich.

    Along with this, you'll get the "Mix Tape" and Dina Hornbaker's EP.*

    *All music available via digital download.

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    TOTE BAG

    Designed by West Virginia's own Dan Davis of Kin Ship Goods in West Virginia, this stylish tote bag (pictured on the left) is guaranteed to carry more stuff than your pockets---unless you have like cargo pants or something.

    You also get all the other cool stuff. The mix tape, the Appalachian EP's, and the Uganda album via digital download.

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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    PSALMS: THE ALBUM

    Be the first to hear the completed album that will be the subject of the film.

    What will this Jewish Ugandan/Appalachian music sound like? Well, you'll be the first to find out!!!!

    You also get the TOTE BAG and all the music listed above.

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $45 or more About $45

    THE FILM

    See the film first. Get a private link to a digital download of the film, before anyone else. Plus get the tote bag, and all the music.*

    *All music available via digital download.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    T SHIRT

    Why go topless when you can wear a shirt that covers not only your chest, but also your stomach and back?

    Get this stylish t shirt (pictured on the left) designed by Dan Davis of Kin Ship Goods in West Virginia.

    You also get all the other cool stuff. The tote bag, the film, and all the music.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    SONG WRITING LESSON

    Wanna learn how to write a song? Well, our West Virginia cast wants to teach you. Come to WV or learn via Skype.

    You'll get this lesson, plus all the merch, the movie, and music!

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    REAL TIME FOOTAGE

    Skype in with the crew in Uganda, as we're filming the documentary. Say hi and see a real time "behind the scenes" film.

    Plus you get all the other rewards mentioned above. T-shirt, tote bag, and all the music.

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    BACKSTAGE PASS

    Be a part of the filming in West Virginia. Come backstage and see the "behind the scenes," as they happen. You might even make it into the movie (or the blooper reel).

    You also get all the merch and music. Shirt, tote bag, and all that good stuff.

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    ASSOCIATE PRODUCER CREDIT

    Get your name on IMDB as associate producer of our film. Then, if we're lucky enough to get into festivals, come join us as part of the production team.

    Plus you'll get all the other cool stuff. The real time footage, the digital download of the film, the t-shirt, tote, and all the music.

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    EXECUTIVE PRODUCER CREDIT

    Get your own title card at the beginning of the film. Picture it. The opening credits of the movie. Your name fades in, over some cool footage of a waterfall in Uganda or a canyon in West Virginia. It'd be pretty sweet.

    Plus, you'll have your name on IMDB. And you'll get all the other cool stuff. The real time footage, the digital download of the film, the t-shirt, tote, and all the music.

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Funding period

- (28 days)