As this month’s picks attest, the South has no problem taking the cliche “the truth is stranger than fiction,” loading it into a cannon, lighting its fuse, and launching it into a fireworks stand just to watch it burn in an explosion of horror and beauty. So unfold your lawn chair, spray on the Skin So Soft, and sit back and watch the show.
Isbell in 24 Frames
Running with Our Eyes Closed, HBO Max
In his profile of Jason Isbell for Garden & Gun’s latest cover story, contributing editor Matt Hendrickson previews this documentary on Isbell, out April 7, which was filmed during the making of his 2020 album Reunions: “It is so easy to have misperceptions about someone’s life when we don’t know them,” the director, Sam Jones, tells Hendrickson. “The idea was to put the audience right in the center of a person’s life and see what it really is. He and Amanda were willing to show that.”
Hail, Hail, the Architect
Little Richard: I Am Everything, on demand
In the beginning (of rock and roll) was the word, and word was a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bom-bom. And in this new documentary—which premiered to raves earlier this year at Sundance and will be available on demand April 21—director Lisa Cortés demystifies the multitudes contained by the electrifying, often imitated but never duplicated “Little Richard” Penniman of Macon, Georgia.
So You Married an Axe Murderer?
Love & Death, HBO Max
The Murdaugh trial may be over, but you can still get your true crime fix starting April 27 with this must-see limited series based on 1980s Texas housewife Candy Montgomery (played by Elizabeth Olsen), who stands accused of hacking the wife of her lover—Friday Night Lights’s Jesse Plemons, a Dallas native—to bits with an axe. But was that her biggest no-no? “This is Texas,” says a voice in the trailer. “Folks might be able to forgive murder. Adultery? Not so much.”
Spirit in the Sky
On a Wing and a Prayer, Prime Video
Also from the true-lives-of-Southerners files comes this film, out April 7, starring Houston native Dennis Quaid as Doug White, a Louisiana father who had to navigate his wife, Terri (played by Heather Graham), and two daughters to safety after their private plane pilot died mid-flight on Easter Sunday 2009.
Terror in Alabama
Over eight episodes, which just concluded last month, the Atlanta journalist Josie Duffy Rice takes listeners into the horrific legacy of the juvenile reform institute once known as the Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children, or Mt. Meigs. The torture and abuse happening at the “modern-day slave plantation” went unnoticed until 1968, when five girls escaped and one, Mary Stephens, told the tale. Stephens and other survivors, including the world-renowned artist Lonnie Holley, share more of their stories here.
Doc on Doc
My Name Is Merle, EdNC
In honor of its thirty-fifth anniversary and what would have been Doc Watson’s hundredth birthday, the celebrated MerleFest in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, will not only once again host top-tier talent (including Rich and Chris Robinson, Maren Morris, Marcus King, and the Avett Brothers), but director Robert Kinlaw’s new documentary about the festival, My Name Is Merle, will also premiere during the event on Saturday, April 29, at the Walker Center. Even better for those sitting at home, producers EducationNC will release the film immediately after on its website and on MerleFest’s YouTube channel.
Hey, I Know Her!
Season eight of the terrific PBS documentary series Reel South begins dropping episodes April 10, and the April 17 edition includes one of our own: G&G This Land columnist and contributing editor Latria Graham, in a film centered on the Southern landscape called Stay Here Awhile, directed by Carlo Nasisse and G&G contributing photographer Andrew Kornylak. Part of Graham’s segment will include her reading from “A Dream Uprooted,” her Traditions column from the April/May 2020 issue.
Ready Your Tarzan Yell
The movies that young Carol Burnett watched with her grandmother while growing up in San Antonio, Texas, influenced many of the characters and sketches she would go on to create for her eleven-season Carol Burnett Show, just one of the feathers in her comedic cap. Now NBC is honoring the groundbreaking actress on the occasion of her ninetieth birthday with a two-hour tribute featuring musical performances, new interviews, and a career retrospective. The show will air live on April 26 and stream on Peacock the next day.
Lone Star Odyssey
The Last Thing He Told Me, Apple TV+
Reese Witherspoon snapped up the runaway bestseller The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave, for both her book club and her Hello Sunshine production company, which turns out this limited series starring West Virginia sweetheart Jennifer Garner on April 14. Garner stars as Hannah Hall, who must bond with her stepdaughter to try to solve the mystery of her husband’s sudden disappearance, a journey that leads them to Austin, Texas, where the show filmed last year.
One I Missed in March but Just Can’t Not Include
Agent Elvis, Netflix
So, just follow me here for a second: This bawdy, bloody, now-streaming animated series features…Elvis…voiced by Matthew McConaughey…as a super spy…along with his coked-up sidekick…a chimp…called Scatter…and was made entirely with the blessing…and participation…and voice!…of Priscilla Presley.