There’s not a damn thing that can ever replace experiencing something…first hand.
While Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story does an admirable job of showing us the rich and multifaceted tradition in this long standing culture and music festival, it ultimately slides a little too easily into infomercial territory.
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell, aka “Jazz Fest,” is the signature annual music and cultural event of the city and has been called America’s greatest festival. Celebrating the music, food, and arts and crafts of all of Louisiana since 1970, Jazz Fest is an essential showcase of the rich heritage of the region, and hundreds of thousands attend the event each year. Local music heroes are joined on 14 stages by some of the most important figures in entertainment, highlighting the connections between Louisiana culture and the world. Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story weaves together live performances and interviews from the 50th anniversary of the iconic festival, featuring some of the biggest names in the music industry, along with a wealth of archival documentary footage from the past half century. This film not only captures the Festival in all of its beauty and glory, but also delves deep into the rich culture of The Big Easy.
To say that the directing team of Frank Marshall and Ryan Suffern have more credits between then I can count isn’t as much of an exaggeration then you might think but that may have actually been this films ultimate downfall.
There’s so much to run through and so much info to give us, while still allowing for the main draw (the music) to have its time, the film just feels rushed. Don’t get me wrong, Marshall and Suffern do an excellent job of running us through everything they have to in the film’s lean and mean 94 minute run time while making it feel as organic as possible, but it felt like a cinematic version of ‘Coles Notes’ on the festival.
The breadth of material could have easily lent itself to being a limited doc series and it honestly kind of feels like we’ve been robbed just a little bit of what this could have been. Quite simply this is more of an excellent exercise in editing then it is in filmmaking, which is neither bad OR good…it just is.
At the end of the day, if you’re not travelling any time soon and need an excuse to soak up some unique culture then Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story just might fit the bill but you’ll likely be left wanting more.