Owensboro stars in documentary
By Angela Oliver
With “Owensboro: Portrait From Middle America,” Keenan Powell has merged his love of history and filmmaking.
The documentary will premiere at 7 p.m. Friday and will show again at 7 p.m. Saturday at Theater Workshop of
Owensboro’s Trinity Center, 407 W. Fifth St. It was produced by his company, South Cicero Media.
It features black-and-white clips of early Owensboro life, present day scenes and interviews with Mayor Ron Payne,
Judge-Executive Al Mattingly, long time journalist Keith Lawrence and the Rev. Larry Birkhead, among other residents.
Powell said he was inspired to the start the documentary by the opening of Smothers Park last August.
In the film, Payne describes as “the most exciting place in the state of Kentucky, if not the region.”
“I hope that with the film, 50 years from now, people will have an idea of what Owensboro was at this time, Powell
said. It’d be hard to make a definite film right now because (the city) is constantly changing.”
Though he’s made five other documentaries, including “Before I Sleep: Remembering John Kennedy” and “Blood, Toil,
Tears & Sweat: The Saga of World War II,” Powell said his recent effort is his most involved.
“The others were mostly old clips and narration, some interviews,” he said. “This has far more interviews. The
mayor, the judge-executive, everyone was really receptive. Those two have seen the film and they’ve told me they loved
The documentary highlights some of the bright sides of Owensboro, such as the development, but Powell didn’t shy
away from asking his interviewees about the trouble spots, such as teen pregnancy rates, substance abuse, homelessness and
recovering from the economic downturn.
Though lacking in some aspects, Powell said he’s proud of “Owensboro: Portrait From Middle America.”
“I wish it was more diverse, he said, noting that he would consider a more inclusive follow-up.
Powell, who grew up on Chicago’s South Cicero Avenue, has lived in Owensboro for 11 years. His interest in films
came during a family trip to Universal Studios in California in 1970 when the tour guides demonstrated a few production
tasks. He was also inspired by a silent film version “Phantom of the Opera” that he saw at Disney
nd. It reminded him of the silent comedies he often saw as a boy at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.
His next project, due in 2014, will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings.
Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. The documentary will also show at 7 p.m., Aug. 30th and 31st at Evansville Civic
Theater Annex, 717 N. Fulton Ave., Evansville. Admission is $5 at all shows. For more information or to purchase the
DVD, see southciceromedia.net