Director Lori Najvar is a native Texan and long-time Austinite who has an intimate knowledge of and deep love for Texas traditions. She is the director of PolkaWorks, a nonprofit company that focuses on cultural traditions in Texas. Najvar has worked as a graphic designer, photographer and videographer for numerous nonprofits and education-based institutions.
In 2014, producers Jeffrey Brown (“Shut Up and Shoot Me,” “No No: A Dockumentary,” and “Punk in Africa”) and Loretta Cooper came together with producer and director Lori Najvar to tell the story of Moody Anderson and his antique collection, which happened to quite literally be the size of a town called The Grove. “The Grove, Texas” explores how Moody developed his town, the love of his antiques and the preservation of its future. This week, I talk with Najvar about her experience with the documentary.
- Tune in to ‘Frame of Mind’ on KERA TV tonight at 11 p.m. to watch the auction of antiques on ‘The Grove, Texas.’
On how she began directing…
I saw a need to collect stories that might not often be recognized, and I was in a masters program at St. Edwards University and became very interested in identifying my own Texas roots with Texas Czechs. I made a couple of documentaries about cultural traditions in the Texas Czech communities. I’m a visual artist so I’ve always been interested in representing some type of education or nonprofit in an educational manner.
On the goal for ‘The Grove, Texas…’
When we discovered the selling of this town, our goal was to preserve that story in its 30 years of existence. As a native Texan I’ve seen lots of very small communities diminish because of people moving to cities for jobs and towns, such as The Grove, crumble. Our goal was to highlight Moody Anderson, how his passion as collector reached out to different groups of people when sharing that collection and how he preserved the buildings of The Grove, Texas. I think without his efforts, those buildings wouldn’t be standing today.
Her thoughts on the selling of The Grove…
The Grove has many layers of messages. Moody, at the age that he is, couldn’t take the collection with him. It would have been great if a museum had bought the entire collection, that might have made him the happiest. I think if one of his children had taken over then it would have been another story, but none of them had that collector’s bug. I think [Moody] did a great job. It’s very hard to do something like that.
There was a good marriage with Robb Burley’s auction; he and his staff have great sensitivity with peoples’ collections and they value the historical value each piece has. I know Moody was very happy with the outcome. It took a lot of strength.
On if there were antiques that caught her eye…
Oh, of course! There was a 3D advertising piece; it was an antique — it was probably from the ’40s or ’50s, but I call it an antique — in the general store, no matter where you were, you could see these eyes following you. I’ve never seen an advertisement piece like that before. A friend of mine bought it. Because we were filming so many collections and auctions, I needed to save my marriage and not buy a lot of things [laughs]. On the third day I purchased something and the auctioneer commented, “You know it’s cheap if the film crew is buying it.”
On her favorite filmmaker…
Oh, that’s not fair! There’s a lot of documentarists in Texas and I don’t know if I can put my finger on just one. I think at large, as far as capturing culture and not trying to sway or manipulate the story very much, Les Blank. He featured some of Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma — he’s highlighted much of the Southwest culture. He’s no longer living, but he was a passionate professor in teaching filmmaking. I think he’s my first love.
Thoughts on being featured on ‘Frame of Mind…’
We are thrilled; it’s a dream. It’s so exciting to be selected and we’re so excited to share this with everyone. Moody Anderson and Robb Burley are both excited as well. We’re just thrilled to share the message and I think there’s a story about Texas and the community that came together. People also still live in the area surrounding The Grove and they’re going to be excited that this will be shown on KERA.