A few weeks later I wrote to Henry (he doesn't do email) and we corresponded on and off for several years. It wasn't until 2016 that we finally met in person and I proposed the notion of a film. Glassie is one of the most articulate and thought-provoking people I've ever met. His engagement with his material, with the people he encounters, the artists he stands with and his philosophical outlook - all coalesce in a very passionate and engaged individual.
In 2018, Henry and his wife, folklorist Pravina Shukla published a book called 'Sacred Art: Catholic Saints and Candomblé Gods in modern Brazil'.
We travelled with Henry and Pravina to Salvador in Bahia and to a small pottery village called Maragojipinho and there we encountered dozens of artists who Henry and Pravina had spent so much time with over the previous decade.
The artists opened their doors to us because the trust had already been established and we were able to spend time with them and capture their work in real time. We spent two days with Rosalvo Santana in his front room and filmed him as he made a saint from clay – the Nossa Senhora Desatadora dos Nós by hand and with the greatest attention and skill. We spent days wondering if we could track down the artist Samuel Rodrigues in the streets of Salvador. When we did meet him, he took us to his father's forge, and we filmed him at work - in 30 intense minutes he made a Candomblé God from scrap metal. It was like a performance, pure attention and concentration.
We also travelled with Henry and Pravina to North Carolina where so many great potters live and work. Again, we spent days observing them at work - Kate Johnston and her husband Daniel Johnston and the English potter Mark Hewitt as he fired up the kiln and worked for days and nights in searing heat.
During the filming, Henry often said he didn't care if he appeared in the film or not. I think he would have actually preferred if he wasn't in it at all - that the artists we filmed would get the full attention of the viewer. It was something I struggled with – because I wanted to capture the way I felt when I heard him speak on the radio that first time. Though I did convince him to sit down for one interview in Brazil it wasn't until we reached his home in Bloomington, Indiana that we sat him down and spent two days asking him questions.
It was a great privilege to make this film. I feel the film is a true collaboration and I couldn't have made it without Henry's input and generosity. His outlook and ideas and his writings are the reason this film exists. I hope it brings his important work to wider attention and that small communities everywhere see their own experience mirrored in the works and artists on display. Artists everywhere express the character and personality of their communities.