Film highlights role of music in Czech culture

By: 
Chuck Kajer, The New Prague Times

Eddie Shimota Jr. next to a poster promoting the movie “Singin’ in the Grain.” The poster shows a 12-year-old Eddie playing the concertina on his family’s farm north of Veseli. (Chuck Kajer Photo)

Albert Milgrom grew up in Pine City, a community about an hour north of the Twin Cities that included a large Czech population. While he wasn’t Czech himself, he said as a boy, he could speak a little Czech and when he was at friends’ homes, Czech food was often on the table.

In the 1970s, the film maker heard about a polka band playing at the Veseli Ho- Down. The band leader had the same last name as one of his childhood friends, so he decided to find out if there was any relation.

There was none, but the visit began a decades long relationship with the Shimota family and many hours of film footage featuring the Eddie Shimota Band and his family. It included Eddie Shimota Sr. teaching his young son, Eddie Jr., the basics of playing the accordion.

Fast forward to about 15 years ago, Milgrom renewed his acquaintance with the Shimota family and began filming Eddie Jr., who followed his father’s footsteps as a bandleader, carrying on the traditions of his father, who died in 2006.

The Shimota family plays a prominent role in Milgrom’s film, “Singin’ in the Grain: a Minnesota Czech Story,” which debuted Saturday, April 6, during the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival.

“Eddie Sr. caught my eye as almost a heroic figure,” Milgrom said during a Q and A session after the film’s debut, talking about his efforts to keep the Czech musical traditions alive.

Residents of the “Czech Triangle” that includes New Prague, Montgomery, Lonsdale and Veseli, will be thrilled to see footage shot at the Veseli Ho-Down and Montgomery’s Kolacky Days in the 1970s and more recent footage from those festivals and New Prague’s Dozinky Festival. Milgrom said they are working to arrange a showing in New Prague sometime this spring.

In addition, the film features scenes from......

To see more on this story pick up the April 11, 2019 print edition of The New Prague Times. 

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