Movie Review: Make It Funky!

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International
MAKE IT FUNKY! joins recent performance docs, like DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN celebrating Bluegrass, and LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE honoring the Blues, in which all the greats from the genre get together for a grand concert – along with colorful commentary, interviews, archival footage, and a social and historical context. But, MAKE IT FUNKY! – about New Orleans music -- has an effect the filmmakers could never have predicted in April of 2004 months before Katrina devastated the city. The whole thing is heartbreaking. This documentary crystallizes a treasure that will never be the same.

In the bayou music is everywhere, like no other place in America. In homes parents sing while they are doing their chores, and neighborhood brass bands show up on the streets on a daily basis. "Life is celebrated and death is honored" with the traditional funeral march. Several generations play in bands together.

Being a port town, the music is a mosaic of rhythms from disparate cultures -- from the Caribbean, Haiti, Cuba, and Africa to the Mardi Gras Indians, with rhythms from rhythm & blues, jazz, and contemporary funk. In the six-hour concert performed on April 27, 2004 at the Saenger Theatre, local favorites played, with guests like Bonnie Raitt and Keith Richards joining in occasionally.

Big Easy greats devastate with their skill! The jubilant trumpet match among Troy Andrews, Irvin Mayfield, and Kermit Ruffins is a reminder of how unique the New Orleans sound is. Tributes are paid to breakout musicians Little Richard, Fats Domino and Dr. John. Fellow musicians praise celebrated drummer Earl Palmer; Palmer performs and is interviewed. Pianist Jon Cleary offers commentary.

My favorite is the spotlight on the Neville brothers. Fifty-year local mainstay, Art Neville, Meters vocalist, narrates, giving a rich history of what is called "one funky city." We see the Neville brothers playing together, gloriously, as always, and Art’s musician grandson is introduced. Perennial hottie Aaron Neville tells how in 1966 his music started working its way up the charts while he was still living hand-to-mouth working at the docks to support his family.

MAKE IT FUNKY! is a reminder of the recent Katrina tragedy, but also of the unique glory of New Orleans. I hope the director, Michael Murphy makes MAKE IT FUNKY II!, a reunion, to celebrate the rise of the funky city.

The Roxie Cinema in San Francisco is having a premiere benefit of MAKE IT FUNKY! starting on Friday, October 28. The entire run will serve as a benefit for Louisiana Rebirth (Restoring the Soul of America), whose primary mission is to help rebuild Louisiana’s unique cultural industries in the wake of the devastation left behind by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

In San Francisco, this is Joan Widdifield for Movie Magazine.
More Information:
Make It Funky!
2005, Directed by Michael Murphy