Mar 172014

Made in American is a Ron Howard-directed behind-the-scenes documentary about 2012’s Budweiser Made in America music festival, which was held in Philadelphia. The music festival is the brainchild of Philadelphia local and musician Jay-Z. In creating the festival, he hoped to bring together people from all different cultures and walks of life to enjoy the power of music together. The multi-genre festival was held over two days and featured artists such as: Pearl Jam, Rita Ora, Miike Snow, Jay Z and Skrillex.

The documentary covers not only the performances and the festival itself, but it also interviews participating artists about their craft and why they make music/what inspires them, and founder Jay Z about his motivations for both the festival and his career as a whole. While the performances are photographed beautifully & transport you to the heart of the audience, it was the interviews with the performers which I found the most interesting. They all have such different backgrounds and came into the music business in such different ways. Some came in later in life, while others have performed since they could walk. There were several extremely inspirational interviews with performers who came from challenging backgrounds, but fought hard and achieved their dreams. To hear how humbled they felt to have transformed their lives was extremely refreshing – a real look behind their often showy stage persona.

Ron Howard and his team have constructed an extremely watchable and entertaining documentary with Made in America, switching between performances, interviews and segments showing the putting together of the festival. I particularly enjoyed the interviews with one of the roadies, a local who relies on summer events to make it through the barren winter. An interview with an elderly resident who lives next to the festival location was also an amusing highlight. The sound editing is impeccable and recreates the concert experience to the highest quality. The underlying theme of celebrating music and life, even at a time with things are down, was uplifting and inspirational. This is a great documentary for music lovers and those needing a little pick-me-up alike.

By Sam McCosh
Made in America is screening as a special events season from March 20, 2014. More information here.