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Thumbs Up for Mother Universe: Stories from the Life of Lonnie Holley


This is the story of one person’s drive to succeed against impossible odds: a journey from garbage dumps and prison camps to festival stages and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Alabama native Lonnie Holley has been described as an outsider, poet, con man, prophet, hustler, visionary artist, junkman and shaman. This documentary, shot over a more than 20-year period,  traces Holley’s incredible odyssey through grinding poverty, an unspeakably brutal childhood and Jim Crow justice to emerge triumphant as an internationally renowned visual artist and musician.

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A film by George King

2019 | Documentary, Animation | 96 mins | USA

After the world gave up on Lonnie Holley, the Universe sent him the gift of art. Born, one of 27 children in Jim Crow Alabama, Holley was stolen away as an infant and sold for a pint of whiskey. Growing up in grinding poverty and abuse on society’s margins left its scars. At age 28, Holley discovers making things quiets the demons that haunt him to this day. He begins to make art out of what the rest of us throw away—trash, garbage and debris. Now, nearing 70 years of age, his artwork sits in the Smithsonian, the National Gallery, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, while his music has garnered international critical acclaim for its stirring soulful depth. Thumbs Up for Mother Universe tells the story of how Lonnie Holley overcame the longest of odds to become an unlikely art superstar.