LA TIMES - TV Picks: 'Gritty City,'

February 15, 2014

The Whole Gritty City" (CBS, Saturday). Like many documentary films, this feature-length look at New Orleans, marching bands, kids and band directors took a while to get done. Shot from 2007 to 2010, it was finished with funds raised from Kickstarter and acquired by CBS, which is airing it under the rubric of its crime-umentary series "48 Hours." (Richard Barber, who edited the film and co-directed it with Andre Lambertson, its director of photography, works for the series.) The venue is not entirely inappropriate -- murder is a recurring theme through the film, a low, dissonant pedal tone that fades up occasionally but never completely fades away. But it is not the dominant note, which is the creation of harmony, figuratively, literally.

It's sometimes hard to track -- there are three bands, three band directors and numerous young players, and it is not always easy to remember who goes with whom, and who goes where, and the film, which (excitingly) is as close to cinema verite as network television ever gets, jumps around between them, without narration or much in the way of identifying titles. But since all bend toward similar goals, with similar obstacles in the way, it is all, in a sense, the same story; the end, which is at once heartbreaking and hopeful, makes that clear. ("Treme" fans may be reminded of Wendell Pierce's story line, in which an itinerant trombonist finds himself -- and finds himself -- slowly becoming a teacher.) It is a look at life, rather than a structured argument; or rather, the argument is made continually, with casual eloquence.

Certainly, the adults here, teachers and parents both, have a sense of urgency and mission; New Orleans is a dangerous place, most years in the running for the nation's murder capital, and the hope for new generations of city youth is to redeem them with music -- the satisfaction it brings, and the discipline it demands -- which is a long city tradition in itself. But what is most affecting is what the camera catches -- the gleam of brass, a toddler drumming with fair authority on a sidewalk, figures in a field at twilight rehearsing, pages of music blowing in the wind, faces in thought, and not in thought. It shows you the town; it lets you listen to the music without getting in the way. (There are times when no one speaks, for the network equivalent of eternity.),0,5530150.story#ixzz2tOgQmiC4

Students write about "The Whole Gritty City"

January 25, 2014

One of our favorite parts of premiering “The Whole Gritty City” in The New Orleans Film Festival was doing free screenings for public school audiences (thank you Skye Macdonald!). The group of students from McMain High School wrote essays the day after they viewed the film. Here are some excerpts.

 “The Whole Gritty City was a very eye-opening experience. It will forever change the way I look at things. To the three teenagers that opened up enough for it to be real, I say thank you! I felt like I was going through your day to day lives with you. The way of music made me feel uplifted and proud to be from New Orleans...To me it was not a documentary, it was emotional eye catching heartfelt hope in the whole gritty city." 

“I like how the film didn’t just talk about the violence and other conflicts the people may go through in their neighborhood, but it gave the children a voice....I also liked how the competition wasn’t just between the bands for parade season, but the competition of rising above all the negativity in their life, and becoming a better person. It was better than a big box cinema. It was life."

“The movie was full of emotion. One character that stood out to me most was Bear. He was so young and wise for his age. It amazed me how he committed himself to his music.”

 “The gritty city showed that kids with less money can actually be something in life. This made the film very emotional which gets a crowd’s attention."

“It was very funny in the beginning but at the end it started to get very sad. I almost started to cry but I try my hardest not to cry...My favorite character was Bear. I just loved me some Bear in the film. He look a cool and funny kid.”

“I also like the way the different families were put together to form one.”

 “As soon as the production started I couldn’t turn my head. The music was on point with the movie and it got me in my feelings and got my undivided attention.”

“I went through some of the hard stuff those same people went through after the storm. I liked how it showed the stuff going on in those kids’ neighborhood..”

“The movie The Gritty City was different from movies I’ve watched. The people were real, their stories were real, and there was no acting involved. All of their stories really touched my heart. I cried a little. Most movies are about not too many real things and also they are never about New Orleans band struggles...I want to thank you for giving me opportunities of seeing the movie because it made me take a second look on life.”


November 26, 2013

48 HOURS has acquired the documentary film “The Whole Gritty City,” which will be broadcast as a two-hour primetime special Feb. 15, 2014 (9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

“The Whole Gritty City” follows three New Orleans marching bands. The bands’ directors do more than prepare students to march in Mardi Gras parades: they battle for their lives and souls against the lures and dangers of the streets.

Shot in New Orleans from 2007 to 2010, “The Whole Gritty City” portrays the setbacks and the triumphs of band members and their adult leaders in America’s most musical city and one of its most violent.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune called the film “an impassioned documentary look at the often-unsung heroes of Mardi Gras parades” that is “emotional” and at times “heartbreaking.”  Author and screenwriter David Simon called “The Whole Gritty City” a “beautiful film” that “champions what the American urban experience offers us all in terms of culture, community and, ultimately, meaning.”

48 HOURS PRESENTS: “The Whole Gritty City” is a documentary by Richard Barber, a 48 HOURS editor-producer, and Andre Lambertson, a cinematographer and photojournalist dedicated to giving voice to children dealing with poverty and violence.


October 08, 2013

There are still tickets available for Monday at 4:15 at The Prytania. use the link below. There may be last minute student rush tickets available Saturday. Here's what the festival website says about that:
"Can I get student rush tickets in advance?
No. These tickets will go on sale only after all regular ticketholders are seated in a theater and open seats remain. You must present a valid student ID to be able to purchase rush tickets."
We are working on an additional New Orleans screening after the festival. We'll keep you all posted.