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Rare Leon Russell documentary to screen Wednesday in L.A.

Filmmaker Les Blank created some of the most engaging music documentaries ever during his four decades traveling off the beaten path, capturing Cajun music, zydeco, Tex-Mex and other cross-cultural regional music of the Americas. Yet his first feature-length documentary has remained unreleased for more than 40 years.

Wednesday night’s screening in Los Angeles of “A Poem Is a Naked Person” is made all the more intriguing since the film’s subject, Oklahoma rocker and recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Leon Russell, will be on hand to participate in a question-and-answer session. He'll do so in a talk with Blank’s son, Harrod, that will be moderated by superstar Americana music producer T Bone Burnett.

Blank followed Russell during the early 1970s when he was riding high from his work as the music director for Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour, which led to the launch of a solo career that yielded a string of hit singles and albums.

The documentary includes footage Blank shot at the World Armadillo Headquarters in Austin, Texas, as well as studio footage of Russell working in Nashville. While in Tennessee, he focused on country music through his Hank Wilson alter-ego, which features Blank interacting with country greats such as George Jones and Willie Nelson.

Asked at the South by Southwest Music Festival recently why the film was kept out of circulation all these years, Russell said, “I really can’t remember.”

“A Poem Is a Naked Person” will screen at 8 p.m. at the Theatre at Ace Hotel, 929 S. Broadway, Los Angeles. Tickets are $18 to $35. The event is being presented by Cinefamily as part of the ongoing Don’t Knock the Rock film festival.

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