The Man in Black was, of course, Johnny Cash. Saul Holiff was his long-time manager, a dedicated, remote, often cruel man who committed suicide and left his son with a lot of unanswered questions. Jonathan Holiff’s documentary is an investigation of his father’s life and that of the celebrity who dominated it for years. Both Cash and his manager were strong men with serious weaknesses; we learn of their triumphs and failures, their mutual resentment and envy, their troubled relationships with their families. The film is respectful but never hagiographic—it shows the good and the bad, the public and the painfully private.
Following his father’s suicide, director Holiff discovers hundreds of letters and audio diaries, including recorded phone calls with Johnny Cash during his crazed pill-fueled 1960s jags, triumphs at Folsom and San Quentin, wedding to June Carter, and his conversion in the early 1970s to born-again Christian.
These artifacts are revelatory, for the filmmaker and for us: a behind-the-scenes look at the business of music, the pitfalls of success and the tensions of a friendship that would eventually dissolve.
Mixing found footage, creative re-enactments and poignant voice-over narration, the documentary tells a riveting story with creative means as well as an act of catharsis for its maker.
MY FATHER AND THE MAN IN BLACK opens in Los Angeles and New York this Friday, September 6th and select cities nationwide. The documentary’s opening date coincides with the 10th anniversary of Johnny Cash’s death (September 12).
The film will be available on iTunes ( where you can pre-order it now), VOD, and Amazon Instant Video on September 10th and DVD on October 1.
Director Jonathan Holiff will be doing Q&As at the Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills opening weekend. The Johnny Cash tribute band The Mighty Cash Cats will perform at 6:30PM on September 6 prior to the 7:15PM showing.
To check the screening dates and times please click here.