City of a Million Dreams

For those who love New Orleans and those who love learning about history this documentary co-written and directed by Jason Berry is right up your alley. Especially if your alley is filled with jazz music. New Orleans is a very unique city in many ways. One is its longtime history of jazz funerals. What are jazz funerals, you ask? Read on.

History is what teaches us about how we got where we are today. Even something like the music of a city. What Berry’s film attempts to tell us is what the combination of jazz music and funerals mean about New Orleans. A seemingly strange combo of mourning and celebration. Tragedy and comedy are like the two faces of New Orleans and like those famous Mardi Gras masks.

The Sunday second-line parade or jazz funerals help residents deal with the pain involved in death and a deep-rooted legacy of racism. The second line dance moves to the beat of the music to mark a soul’s voyage to heaven. As is shown in the film the ceremony comes from a set of tricky roots and meanings. They come from the city’s residents’ origins in Haiti and Africa. It is from here that the beginnings of jazz music came forth.

Combined with this history lesson is the personal story of one of the city’s residents. Deb Cotton’s story begins in Hollywood. As a child she felt the lure of New Orleans but had to wait until she was an adult to visit it. That was enough as she moved to New Orleans and became a vital member of its population. She also wanted to learn about the great city’s history and so she and Jason Berry decided to make a movie. This movie. A movie that attempts to reveal the soul of The Big Easy. Tons of emotion and impact follows.

All the beauty and character in the film act as a kind of travelogue of the city. I cannot imagine someone watching this film and not looking into booking a flight to New Orleans. Who could resist this intriguing combo of light and dark? Hope and despair.

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