Narrated by Art Neville of the Neville Brothers, "Make it Funky!" features such figures as Jon Cleary, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas and numerous others whose names may not instantly register with average audiences, but who will, by film's end, have won legions of new fans. The most recognizable figures in the film -- Bonnie Raitt and Keith Richards -- are on hand to simply pay tribute to this remarkable city and its soulful spirit, as well as underscore just how vital New Orleans has been to their respective schools of music.
Documentary traditionalists hoping for probing historical insights and Ken Burns-style archival stills and artifacts won't find much of it here -- this isn't meant to be a history lesson, and such insights are provided only anecdotally as needed to contextualize the performers and performances. More than anything, "Make it Funky!" is a down-home Cajun party to which audiences are invited, boasting an exhilaratingly diverse array of performances that span the world of New Orleans music. It doesn't quite capture the essence of the city, a trick to which it desperately aspires throughout, but it comes close, shedding light on one of the few locales that can legitimately be called an American cultural touchstone.
Shortly after this review was filed, the city of New Orleans, along with other portions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. We are profoundly saddened by this unprecedented human tragedy which has directly impacted the lives of millions, including those depicted in this film. While no one could have foreseen the catastrophe that would coincide with this film's opening, it seems providential that there should be such a timely reminder of just how profoundly a part of the American cultural fabric is the heart, soul and spirit of this remarkable city. What New Orleans has given to the history and culture of America is beyond evaluation -- surely, in this hour of most dire need, it is time for the nation and the world to begin repaying that debt.
The thoughts and prayers of all of our staffers and writers remain with the victims, as well as their aid workers and rescuers. Starring Allen Toussaint, Aaron Neville, Art Neville, Jon Cleary and Irma Thomas. Directed by Michael Murphy. Produced by Cilista Eberle and Michael Murphy. A Triumph release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 110 min