Phil Campbell of New York learned that there was a town named Phil Campbell, Alabama, one night in 1993, while he was in college, watching old episodes of Hee-Haw. One of the entertainers gave a big “howdy” to the folks from the town, and it quickly became an obsession: Campbell planned the first Phil Campbell Convention two years later, with Phil and Phyllis Campbells from around the country visiting the town.
The documentary I’m With Phil began as an attempt by first-time filmmaker Andrew Reed (a Phil Campbell native) to tell the story of Campbell’s second convention, which was scheduled for June 2011–but as the trailer shows, things got a bit more real after the April 2011 tornadoes devastated the town, cutting a mile-wide swathe of destruction through the 1,100-person town.
But that didn’t end plans for the Phils and Phyllises–in fact, it expanded them. What had been a convention became a relief effort, with people named Phil Campbell traveling from all over the world to pitch in and help clean up and rebuild.
It’s a fairly remarkable story, and the trailer suggests that it’ll do a fine job of telling the story of a quirky, Internet-style stunt that became something meaningful to people who needed a little bit of meaning.