As a director, Ron Howard has made films in a wide range of genres. He has now ‘pulled a Scorsese’ and recorded his first live concert movie, set around J-Z’s Made In America festival.
J-Z’s aim for the festival is to bring music fans from all walks of life together so that they can share in a combined musical experience. Set against the backdrop of economic recovery the concert is a noble exercise in trying to get fans of different musical genres together. It’s actually a shame that ‘the big Z’ failed to keep it cross-generational, as the musical acts are pretty much youth oriented (although Run-D.M.C do feature in the line-up). However, popular music is a young person’s game, so maybe that’s for the best (despite the fact that J-Z is pushing 50).
Howard makes a good job of balancing the concert scenes with behind the scenes footage. He also focuses on the workers behind the festival, illustrating both sides of the American Dream, a dream which is elusive for most. Howard appears in front-of and behind the camera, taking the audience through the world of music. His every-man style makes for a good counterpoint to the musicians, most of whom are quite egocentric. Ironically, it’s the everyday people who come across best in Howard’s film, as a few of the stars come across like hip hop caricatures – a real-life rap This Is Spinal Tap. Howard himself often appears to be quite naive as he weaves his way through the world of modern music.
Made In America is an energetic documentary film. It’s a well crafted piece that makes a decent entry into the rockumentary genre. It’s not quite up there with the likes of Martin Scorsese‘s best efforts, but there are enough solid moments to make it worthwhile for music fans.
MADE IN AMERICA is available on VoD and DVD 19 May