The late Johnny Cash returns to Folsom Prison in The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash, Thom Zimny’s documentary focusing on the icon’s legendary Jan. 13, 1968, visit to the California penitentiary. The film premieres at South by Southwest on Saturday.
The 98-second clip premiering exclusively below features the beginning of the Folsom segment, with photos from Cash’s visit and commentary by his son John Carter Cash, daughter Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris and Bruce Springsteen. Many of the images have never been seen before.
The Gift itself is anchored in Cash’s performances from Folsom in order to, according to Zimny, examine “in detail the songwriting and storytelling that took Cash through a tremendous range of American song traditions. … Here is an artist who would move with confidence between those many worlds of song without ever losing his singular voice.” Others commenting on Cash’s creative prowess in the film include Rodney Crowell and Jackson Browne.
“Ultimately, The Gift strives to live through the darkness and breath in the art of Johnny Cash,” Zimny says, “becoming a story about what music an be amidst the turbulence and wonder of a person’s life. It’s a film about an outlaw, an entertainer a missionary.”
Zimny is particularly known for his work with Springsteen, including myriad videos and films, both documentaries such as Wings for Wheels: The Making of Born to Run and concerts. His other credits include episodes of TV’s The Wire, Driven and Royal Pains, documentaries about Elvis Presley (The Searcher, Elvis Lives) and feature films such as Delinquent, Fever and Finding North.
The Gift will be shown twice more at SXSW, on March 14 and 16.