To most people, jazz funerals are a mystery.
In 2005, writer and videographer Deb Cotton leaves “hard-hearted Hollywood” for New Orleans, and becomes a chronicler of the parading club culture spawned by the legacy of funerals with music. This tradition is carried by the prolific clarinetist Michael White, renowned for playing “the widow’s wail” in sorrowful dirges. When Hurricane Katrina hits, White loses everything in the catastrophic flooding. In his struggle to rebuild, White becomes an everyman, embodying the resurrection spirit of jazz funerals.
Deb and Michael take us on a journey into the city’s past, searching for answers in the face of tragedies both present and past.
As Deb follows the parading culture through the aching recovery, Michael explores his ancestral roots in the dawn of jazz. The danced-memory of enslaved Africans charges a reimagining of antebellum Congo Square, juxtaposed with the grandeur of European marching bands. With burial pageants as a mirror on the city’s history, the film hits a violent turning point at a parade shooting, plunging Deb and Michael into a search for the city’s soul.