Review: Frank Marshall’s New Orleans Jazz Fest Doc A love letter to the city and a fan’s dream
“JAZZ FEST: A New Orleans Story”, is an exuberant and noisy documentary coming out of its seams. The doc overflows with a genuine affection for the cultural treasure that is New Orleans music.
Directors Frank Marshall and Ryan Suffern make perfect use of footage from the legendary New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, both archived and shot during the festival’s 50th anniversary in 2019. The offstage performances and antics are a treat to watch. Interviews with the colorful characters who inhabit this annual festival show why this festival attracts enthusiasts from all over the world.
The film is wonderfully relentless in showcasing festival talent; from the local Marsalis family to Katy Perry, Pitbull, Aaron Neville, Verdine White and Earth, Wind & Fire, Herbie Hancock, Al Green, Tom Jones and more. New Orleans resident Jimmy Buffet is one of the Fest’s most rabid champions. Buffet loves his city so much and this is seen to make his stories particularly poignant.
The doc dives deep into the differences between Zydeco and Cajun music as well as the myriad other forms of music that make up the Jambalaya (yes, the famous food is tantalizingly shown too) of singular New Orleans jazz. Not to say that everything is pink paint and roses. The devastation of Hurricane Katrina is also a star performer. Bruce Springsteen performs “My City in Ruins”. The boss wrote this originally for his town of Asbury Park, NJ. It became a post-9/11 anthem and then, sadly, a post-Katrina adjustment.
Ultimately, this film is a love letter to the people of New Orleans and a dream for music lovers. Kudos to the cinematography, it’s really great. Marshall and Suffern are die-hard fans; they tell the story with excessive respect and affection. A must-see documentary in these times when if you can’t be there, you can at least escape under the irresistible festive charm of “JAZZ FEST: A New Orleans Story”. You might want to hop on a plane and visit The Big Easy yourself!
Sony Picture Classics JAZZ FEST: A New Orleans Story is out now in theaters and on streaming platforms.