Directed by Antonino D'Ambrosio
We’re Still Here: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited is a feature documentary based on Antonino D’Ambrosio’s critically acclaimed book A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears, which tells the astonishing story behind Cash’s little known concept album and his unique collaboration with folk artist Peter Lafarge. With this still largely unknown recording, Cash placed himself in the middle of the fervent social upheavals gripping the nation at the time (many of which still enflame us in the present). Cash faced censorship and an angry backlash from radio stations, DJs, and fans, for speaking out on behalf of Native people on “Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian.” He decided to fight back.
The book inspired Sony Masterworks to reimagine Cash’s highly controversial 1964 record on its 50th anniversary titled Look Again to the Wind. The record was produced by Joe Henry and includes musicians Kris Kristofferson, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Norman Blake, Nancy Blake, Rhiannon Giddens, Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings, and The Milk Carton Kids (working with legendary studio musicians Dennis Crouch, Patrick Warren, and Jay Bellerose). Executive produced and with liner notes by D’Ambrosio and original artwork by artist Shepard Fairey, this new creative undertaking breathed new life into Cash’s visionary record, which came out four years before the American Indian Movement took over Alcatraz, four years before Cash performed at Folsom and six years before he recorded “Man in Black.”
D’Ambrosio chronicles all of this in a film that unfolds as a meditative mystery. Coming at a time when our country is once again gripped by racial tension and social unrest, this films and the story it tells serves a metaphor for a country caught between decline and progression.