Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story had its World Premiere at this year’s SXSW Film Festival in the 24 Beats Per Second category. I have attended the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival only once, and I planned to see it and learn more about the festival. I knew there was more to it, and looked forward to know about the long history. The following is the description that was attached to the film slate: “This soulful and heartfelt celebration of 50 years of the funky and fabulous New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival invites you to bliss out on New Orleans’ unique culture, featuring Jimmy Buffett, Bruce Springsteen, Katy Perry, Earth, Wind & Fire, and many others.” This description fueled the fire – how could I not “bliss out” with this!
The film is co-directed by five-time Academy Award® nominee Frank Marshall and Ryan Suffern (Finding Oscar). The documentary features interviews with amazing artists who performed at the 50th anniversary of the festival, as well as clips of so many of the live performances (I could have easily enjoyed more) and plenty of archival documentary footage taking the viewers back over the past decades leading up to this special year. The beauty of it is how the film captures folks coming together for five decades in unity over music and food, becoming their own community for 8 days. The history of the fest itself is interesting, especially founder George Wein’s background and how he delayed staging the festival from 1962 when he was first approached.
Louisiana, not just New Orleans, is on display on 14 stages and feature local talent, joined by musical talent listed above, as well as international artists who have a deep connection to the city/culture. As is noted in the interviews, many people that came through the port city and stayed helped shape what is in place now. Aside from history about the Africans and Cajuns, there is an excellent portion of the documentary that describes how the Native Americans welcomed the people that were escaping through the Underground Railroad. The costumes are beautiful, and it is informative.
I must go back to blissing out with the music performances, especially Earth Wind & Fire who were also celebrating their upcoming 50th anniversary. Their songs were either taking viewers on a walk-through memory lane, or the new generations of audiences were now grooving to them. I won’t elaborate too much about Bruce Springsteen and how he moved so many people with the song “My City of Ruins.” Even if someone may not be a fan of pop star Katy Perry, the story about her singing in church as a child is good, as well as her singing “Oh Happy Day” with a choir. I am impressed. But not as impressed when I saw that Pitbull was one of the stars being interviewed and the performance of one of his songs was shown, along with the dancers in red attire. I can imagine what the rest of his set was like at the festival! I can’t leave out Al Green making an appearance, singing “Let’s Stay Together” and learning so much more about the entire Marsalis family. Phenomenal! Aaron Neville sings “Amazing Grace.” I melted.
You learn from this documentary that it is more than just jazz, as it also features other genres, including rock, blues, gospel, pop, R&B, world, hip-hop, spoken word, and soul. Be transported with this film when it arrives in theaters in Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and New Orleans as of on June 3. Source: Sony Pictures Classics