April 25, 2009

Crescent City Blues

Throughout the month of April the Library of Congress has been showing a series of jazz-related films and videos presented by Larry Appelbaum at the Mary Pickford Theatre. Appelbaum, senior studio engineer in the Library's Recorded Sound Section, lectures frequently on jazz and is the longtime radio host of WPFW's Sunday evening program "Sound of Surprise”. On Wednesday, April 22, the series featured noted music documentarian Robert Mugge’s 2006 documentary New Orleans Musicians in Exile. In the film Mugge explores the profound impact of Hurricane Katrina on the New Orleans music community. Musicians featured in the production include Dr. John, Cyril Neville, Irma Thomas, Kermit Ruffins, Rebirth Brass Band and many others. Mugge also includes interviews with New Orleans club proprietors, music journalists and record label owners.

In this revealing film the viewer is introduced to the unique spirit and vibrant culture of New Orleans and the havoc and despair left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Director Robert Mugge’s central message is encapsulated in his title New Orleans Musicians in Exile. He documents many of New Orleans’ talented musicians who are living in exile, forced to disperse to other parts of the country following the devastation wreaked on the city by the worst natural disaster in US history. These musicians who made a living performing and recording in New Orleans have kept on playing elsewhere- many of their performances devoted to the beleaguered city. Mugge also focuses on how New Orleans has compensated for the loss of so many of her musicians and which acts plan to return in the imminent future.

The film examines the effects of Hurricane Katrina on individual musicians, and follows the personal stories and experiences in a city they loved and lived in. In addition to performing they share their experiences of loss and displacement. Mugge’s insightful examination reveals the unhealed wounds of their experience while also celebrating their resilience and passion.

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