By Matthew Philips
A Kickstarter campaign has arisen for a new documentary that explores the historic tradition and significance of New Orleans jazz funerals. The film is the brainchild of award-winning writer-director Jason Berry, who has researched and filmed brass-band funerals and their members since the 1990s.
The documentary observes jazz funerals as a “caravan of memory,” where observers and participants can view the city’s history through a musical lens. The crew follows Original Liberty Jazz Band leader Dr. Michael White and his search into the past of his musical ancestors, who helped shape jazz and African-American funeral traditions into a new art form.
Triumph, destruction and rebirth remain major themes in the film. In fact, its turning point comes when White enters his devastated home after he lost thousands of books, CDs and compositions to Hurricane Katrina. These themes are also viewed through Deb “Big Red” Cotton, a Gambit Weekly blogger who helps provide focus on gun violence as a deterrent for the city’s parades and public celebrations.
Berry’s documentary is not the city’s first artistic venture that has looked to online crowdfunding to secure its budget; Alexander Glustrom’s Big Charity: The Death of America’s Oldest Hospital and Henry Lipkis’ 150-foot-long mural celebrating second line culture were also brought to life through Kickstarter donations.
With most of the filming completed, the $20,000 requested on Kickstarter will go towards final shooting and securing permissions for still photos. Any remaining funds will be channeled towards post-production costs.
The team is offering an assortment of gifts for donations of all sizes, from on-screen recognition to copies of the film to invites to VIP Donor events. Yet, unless the Kickstarter campaign reaches its goal of raising $20,000 by Wednesday, June 13, none of these pledged donations will materialize.
Thus far, the team of filmmakers led by Berry has expended about $280,000 to date since they first started filming jazz funerals in the ‘90s. If post-production stays on schedule for the fall, the team expects to submit the documentary for 2019 film festivals and secure distribution through PBS, HBO, Netflix or other platforms.
Find out more information on City of a Million Dreams, including how to support the film and to watch a trailer, here.