Directed by Frank Marshall and Ryan Suffern, Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story is a joyous celebration of the famed music festival and its home base. Started in 1970 by George Wein, who also founded the Newport Jazz Festival, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has celebrated music of all types, exposing its attendees to a rich and diverse array of performers. New Orleans has always been a cultural center for music and art and the festival pays homage to that. The documentary tells the history of the festival and shares performances from the 50th anniversary in 2019. There is also archival footage of festivals past and interviews with notable artists. Performers include Earth, Wind and Fire, Al Green, Irma Thomas, Ellis Marsalis and family, and more. I could have done without the performances by Katy Perry, Pitbull and other more popular entertainers as I felt that was an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. I wanted to see more of the indie artists and legacy performers instead.
This is not a historical biography and there is just a smattering of background and context offered. Instead, the documentary takes the viewer into the world of the festival as though they were stopping at the different stages and tents to take in the various offerings. There is also a lot of appreciation for New Orleans , its history, its music and its people.
Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story had its world premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival. It’s distributed by Sony Picture Classics.
Iván (Armando Espitia) is a divorced single father who dreams of becoming a chef. But in his small town in Mexico, the best job he can get, despite his culinary training, is relegated to a menial role at his local restaurant. One day, Iván attends an underground party with his best friend Sandra (Michelle Rodriguez). There he meets Gerardo (Christian Vázquez), a handsome young man who catches his attention with a laser pointer. The two hit it off instantly. Iván is still in the closet, knowing that coming out will hurt his chances of seeing his son. This complicates his relationship with Gerardo who is out, despite his father’s disapproval. When Iván is outed, he decides to make the treacherous journey across the border to become a chef in the United States. He risks it all for a chance at a new life. But will he ever see Gerardo or his son again?
Directed by Heidi Ewing, I Carry You With Me/Te llevo conmigo is a beautiful queer love story about two Mexican men who risk it all for a better life together. Based on a true story, the film is both documentary and feature film with footage of present day Iván and Gerardo interspersed with narrative scenes played out by actors Armond Espitia and Christian Vázquez. This film is absolutely brilliant. It tackles immigration, homophobia, queer relationships, Mexican culture, and the isolating experience of the Mexican diaspora.
This film is both heart wrenching as it is uplifting. It sends its viewers through the emotional ringer and I found myself deeply invested in Iván and Gerardo’s story. Espitia and Vázquez really deliver with their performances. And to top it all off, the food Iván creates looks absolutely delicious. Don’t watch this film on an empty stomach.
“For this film, I came to the conclusion that it needed to be told in a different format than what I’d done before. This story took place over generations and so the movie would need a sweeping, romantic quality to it. I wanted to see and feel their youth and experience their love. It felt deeply cinematic by nature and just needed a different treatment entirely.”
Director Heidi Ewing
I Carry You With Me/Te llevo conmigo is distributed by Sony Pictures Classics and is currently out in theaters and available on demand.