Popcorn Sutton film wins regional Emmy

The Last One, a locally produced documentary film featuring moonshiner Popcorn Sutton, received an Emmy at the 35th Emmy Awards Southeast ceremony on June 27 in Atlanta, Georgia.

The film depicts Sutton distilling his final batch of illegal liquor, while interviews with Appalachian folklorists, storytellers, and noted authors explore the role of moonshine in Appalachian history and identity. The affable Sutton dominates the film, weaving explanations of points of craft with stories of a lifetime of experiences in the moonshine trade.

Popcorn Sutton’s fame grew exponentially this past March when he committed suicide following a series of highly publicized moonshine busts. He was scheduled to report for an eighteen-month prison term and elected instead to end his life. Obituaries appeared in publications around the country including the Washington Post and New York Times. Neal Hutcheson, producer and director of The Last One, comments, “Popcorn’s death underscores the cultural preservation value of films like The Last One, a fact that I doubt escaped the Emmy selection committee.”

The Last One was produced by Sucker Punch Pictures and funded in part by grants from the North Carolina Arts Council and United Arts of Wake County. Hutcheson is best known for his collaborations with the linguist Walt Wolfram at N.C State University, including the popular documentary Mountain Talk, which laid the groundwork for several further documentaries including the PBS release The Queen Family, The Last One, and a dramatic film, Gary Carden’s The Prince of Dark Corners.

The Last One premiered in November 2008 in the Southern Lens series on ETV in South Carolina, and is currently shown in regular rotation on UNC-TV in North Carolina and on the Documentary Channel nationwide.

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