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Moonshine movie premieres next month

Don Smith, fifth generation moonshiner and owner of the South Mountain Distillery in Burke County, discusses his family history.

Everything we know about moonshiners and moonshining history is wrong.

That’s one of the themes of the Center for Cultural Preservation’s new documentary film on regional moonshine history, “The Spirits Still Move Them.”
David Weintraub, award-winning director/producer of 40 history films, interviews nearly three dozen moonshiners and their families in Western North Carolina, East Tennessee and the Dark Corner of South Carolina to tell a story about moonshine history that’s never been relayed before.

“The myth that all moonshiners are violent, lazy, drunk criminals hiding in the woods wearing long beards and longer arrest records has been recounted by the media for over 100 years,” Weintraub says. “In reality, liquor production was hard, backbreaking work that only the most entrepreneurial farmers conducted which they did in order to survive difficult circumstances and put food on the table. It’s a fascinating story and far more interesting than the myths and distortions we’ve heard.”

The film digs deep into Southern Appalachian history exposing the stereotypes and fabrications about mountaineers that have been fodder for movies and cable television programs for generations from the Beverly Hillbillies to the Moonshiner Show.
“People think all moonshiners were outlaws but it was the federal government that enacted an excise tax after the Civil War that poor farmers had to bear,” says Cody Bradford, fifth generation moonshiner and owner of Howling Moon Distillery in Asheville. “It was either starve or make liquor and it’s not difficult to understand which one they chose.”

Cody and his family are chronicled in the film as are moonshiners from Yancey County to Spartanburg County, South Carolina. Most surprising to many is that many moonshiners were African-Americans, women and Native Americans. And that moonshine played a central role in medicine since the Civil War.

The new film will have its world premieres in the Western North Carolina region from June 17-June 20 and all Covid social distancing guidelines will be in place. Each screening will begin with great bluegrass music by Apple Country Bluegrass Band, who perform in the film, and a discussion with the director and local moonshiners will follow each screening. The film will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 17, at the Orange Peel in Asheville, 7 p.m. Thursday, June 17, at North River Farms in Mills River, 8 p.m. Friday, June 18, as a drive-in theater, and 8 p.m. Sunday, June 20, at Southern Appalachian Brewing Co. (Outside locations are subject to weather dates if necessary.)

Ticket prices vary by location. Advanced reservations are highly recommended by ordering online at or calling the Center at (828) 692-8062. Ticket buyers get $5 off on the price of the DVD if they buy it in advance.