The SXSW Conference, which has been spotlighting great music, movies, and technology since the 1980s, found something new this year: Dolly Parton.
Parton had never attended SXSW before. This year, however, was a very Dolly SXSW in three ways. First, the documentary film Still Working 9 to 5, which paid tribute to the 1980 film Parton helped make a classic, screened. SXSW audiences were also treated to the film Seriously Red, a comedy about a Dolly impersonator. Third, Parton appeared in person at Austin City Limits to promote her new album and novel, Run, Rose, Run.
Parton was honored by SXSW with the SXSW Grulke Career Act Prize award. The award honors an established artist who appeared at SXSW to reinvent themselves or launch a new project.
Still Working 9 to 5
The film Still Working 9 to 5 documented the creation and impact of the film 9 to 5, which brought to the fore the challenges faced by women in the workplace. Parton, starring with Jane Fonda, Dabney Coleman, and Lily Tomlin, wrote and performed the title song and helped make the film one of the highest grossing comedies of all time.
The new film, Still Working 9 to 5, is much more than just a biopic of the stars. It explores the issues which inspired the movie, the resistance to its message, and the continued fight for women’s rights today.
The film’s creators, Camille Hardman and Gary Lane, spoke about the film and answered questions after the screening.
Hardman began producing documentaries in her native Australia over 15 years ago. Five years ago she created the HGTV series Restored. Hardman said that in Still Working 9 to 5 she wanted to include the whole spectrum of issues that impact women.
Lane, born in Goldsboro, North Carolina, knew a lot about Parton before coming to this project. His first production, Hollywood to Dollywood, screened at 70 film festivals, winning 25 Best Documentary awards. He had high praise for Dabney Coleman, 91 years old, and the incredible interviews he gave them.
Still Working 9 to 5 includes a reference to an event that occurred in January of 2022. Lane explained, “Things kept happening relevant to the story as we were editing, so, we just kept adding them in.”
Still Working on the ERA
The film reveals facts and events obscured by time. For instance, the name of the film was inspired by the name of a group fighting for women’s rights in the workplace.
The film also gives a history of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The ERA was designed to guarantee women equal rights under the Constitution. I remembered controversies over this, but I did not realize that it had never passed.
Another issue illuminated by the film was a struggle for equal pay for women headed up by Lilly Ledbetter. Ledbetter, in attendance at the screening, worked for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company for 19 years before discovering she was being paid substantially less than men doing the same job. The film documents her actions which led up to a Supreme Court case and an act of Congress to remedy the unequal pay situation.
Into the Dollyverse
Besides the movies, SXSW attendees had a chance to see Dolly in person at an event to launch her new album and novel, both titled Run, Rose, Run.
The dual launch made sense as the chapters in the novel, which Parton wrote with James Patterson, are each paired with one of the songs. Patterson, known for both his thrillers and his children’s books, is recognized as one of the most successful contemporary American authors.
The event marked Parton’s first step beyond traditional music and movie distribution into the Metaverse. Her site, the Dollyverse, makes elements of the project – music, posters, replays – available as limited edition NFTs. Her appearance at SXSW also was broadcast as a Web3 experience powered by Blockchain Creative Labs and Eluvio.
After SXSW, the novel Run, Rose, Run was picked up by Reese Witherspoon’s production company. She will turn it into a movie which Parton and Patterson will co-produce and in which Parton will appear.
The next SXSW will take place March 10-19, 2023.