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Branson, Missouri is a uniquely American phenomenon. In the early nineteen-eighties the town transformed itself from a sleepy roadside stopover to the self-described capital of live musical entertainment. There are more live entertainment venues in Branson than in any other city in the United States. Every year almost six million tourists visit the town to take in performances by the likes of Bobby Vinton, Andy Williams and Charley Pride.

Branson, Musicland USA is a short documentary film capturing both the Vegas-like showiness of Missouris country music capital, as well as the deep disparity between its socioeconomic classes. Shot in grainy, black and white super-8 film, Branson rolls along as a painterly study in contrasts using starkly tonal visuals, which underscore the wildly varied perspectives on the town. While country music star, Roy Clark, compares Branson to a Norman Rockwell painting, the children of a minimum-wage processing plant worker tell a different story from their dilapidated trailer park.

Perhaps Flossie Brewer, a music loving housekeeper at the Comfort Inn, best embodies the juxtapositions that seem to comprise Branson. As we hear her on the audio track explain her preference for Tony Orlando because of his upbeat style, she simultaneously appears as a shadowy silhouette slowly stamping out a cigarette butt in a plastic ashtray. Yet her reason for staying in Branson--because of the music--seems to be the common thread that runs through all the echelons of the city.

Branson: Musicland USA premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival

11 minutes
Super 8, B&W