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Cville's One-Man Moviemaking Machine

Eduardo Montes-Bradley

The Virginia Film Festival is presenting fifty movies this year – among them, more than a dozen documentaries.  Most were made by a group -- people who do research, write, interview, compose music, create graphics, shoot and edit, but one award-winning documentarian does it all.

Eduardo Montes-Bradley has been making movies for more than 40 years.  He has profiled at least 65 people in his films, including the poet Rita Dove and the civil rights activist Julian Bond.

“I presented the Julian Bond film at the British Academy in London, and there were several older filmmakers from the 70’s and 60’s,” he recalls. “They all emphasized collaboration, and when it came my turn I said, ‘I made the film by myself in the basement.’”

When I phoned Montes-Bradley, he was en route to an interview in Santa Fe and had pulled over to take the call.

“It’s like a country road somewhere between New Mexico and Kansas.  There’s nothing here.”

The trip, he said, was essential.

“In order to finish the film I need to interview this lady who is a descendent of James Madison, who is on the black side of the family."

" Is that what the film is about?" we wondered.

"Yes," he replied.  "It’s called, ‘The Other Madisons.”

Descendants cite oral history in claiming Thomas Jefferson wasn’t the only founding father with a mistress.

“The Madison had 300 slaves over a long period of time, and at some point a woman was purchased in Fredericksburg," Montes-Bradley explains. "Her name was Mandy, and James Madison, Sr. had a child with that woman, and the child was Corinne. They both were assigned to the kitchen. Then James Madison, Sr. had James Madison, Jr. – the author of the Constitution, and then he had a child with his half sister, Corinne.”

Bradley-Montes loves learning about his subjects and getting to know them well, which is why he says he must work alone.

“In order to establish communication, a conversation you need privacy.  You need to get to know that person and share time.  I don’t want to be around people when I do that.”

His latest film profiles a 95-year-old composer of operas and choral music – Alice Parker. 

In addition to flying a drone for this film, Montes-Bradley brought his knowledge of music to the party.

“My dad had a record company, a record label dedicated to classical music and choral music also.”

The documentary is called Alice, and it’s available through the festival’s website now thru Sunday.  I’m Sandy Hausman. 

To view the film, go to

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