Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues Filmmakers Talk Apple Documentary

At IndieWire’s FYC Consider This Brunch, director Sacha Jenkins and producer Julie Anderson spoke about just how radical Louis Armstrong really was — and a presence that eerily is still with us, they said.

Louis Armstrong is one of those icons that is so well known and universally recognized that you may find that you don’t actually know much about him.

That realization was part of what prompted director Sacha Jenkins and producer Julie Anderson to make a film about his life, Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues, for Apple TV+. Both spoke with Executive Managing Editor Christian Blauvelt at IndieWire’s FYC Consider This Brunch on November 18 to discuss their intentions for the film, a top contender for Oscar season.

Armstrong’s blistering technical ability possessed an otherworldly quality that still resonates today – and his presence at a certain moment during filming was indeed otherworldly. When asked what we can learn from Armstrong’s lifetime and apply it to the present day, Jenkins shared an eerie story: “I’m waiting for someone to tell me they’re going to walk through the door. He’s not dead. For example, there’s a scene at the very end of the movie where we shoot his actual record player [in his house in Queens, which is a museum today], and the last record he played about an hour before his death. There’s reel-to-reels that form the backbone of the film, conversations with friends, interviews he’s done. We had access to all of this stuff… you’ll see it in the film. We got the reel-to-reel to work… But the turntable couldn’t be made to work. We decided that we had to manually rotate the record and then record it. The disk turned. The turntable started working and no one could figure out where it was plugged in. The guy is very present. He is the co-director.”

Anderson said that you can still “get a tour of this house and every room is furnished exactly as it was [when he died in 1971]. You feel his presence.”

“You can use the restroom if you know he’s into laxatives, he’d probably be okay with that,” Jenkins said, since Armstrong was apparently known for his affinity for laxatives.

Jenkins is a music journalist-turned-nonfiction filmmaker, best known for the documentaries Fresh Dressed and the documentaries Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men. That influence can be felt in “Black & Blues,” as Jenkins’ friend Nas brings Louis Armstrong to life, bringing to life letters and journal entries written by the jazz great himself.

Anderson has had an eclectic career beginning in reality TV and documentaries before devoting most of her time to documentaries such as God Is the Bigger Elvis about Dolores Hart, the actress who starred opposite Elvis Presley in King Creole before she left Hollywood to become a nun; and Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street.

Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues was a premiere selection at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival in September, where it received strong reviews and was hailed as an Oscar nominee for documentary.

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https://www.indiewire.com/2022/11/louis-armstrongs-black-and-blues-filmmakers-talk-apple-documentary-1234783650/ Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues Filmmakers Talk Apple Documentary

Lindsay Lowe

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