VIFF Film Review - Music Pictures: New Orleans (2022)

Still image of Irma Thomas in front of a microphone in the film Music Pictures: New Orleans

If you love jazz, soul and blues music, especially from artists out of New Orleans you won’t want to miss Music Pictures: New Orleans at VIFF. This documentary takes you behind the scenes with four of New Orleans legendary musicians. Director Ben Chase interviews Irma Thomas, Benny Jones Sr, Little Freddie King, Jason Marsalis and his late father Ellis Marsalis (who passed away at the beginning of Covid). Each of these talented musicians speaks a little bit about their careers alongside footage of New Orleans and pieces of music that each of them have created. I was fortunate enough to visit New Orleans in 2019 and the city still has an incredibly rich music scene and this film showcases that so beautifully. It was really neat getting to learn a little about each of these musicians and their amazing careers and how they are still creating music.


My favourite of the four vignettes was with Irma Thomas, who is known as the Soul Queen of New Orleans. At the age of 16 she was living at home with her parents and working at a restaurant washing dishes. She used to sing to keep herself company at work but her racist boss fired her because she was singing what he called (n-word) music. A dear friend of hers took her to an audition for a record label on a Monday, the next Wednesday she was in studio recording and two weeks later she had her first album out. Her current drummer, Johnny Vidovich, recalls seeing Irma when he was just a young boy in the early 1960’s. “Everybody took a liking to Irma because not only were the tunes good, not only did she sing good, but she was a pretty young lady and she had a beautiful stage presence”. Irma’s performance was real, deep and authentic and the audience could feel that. Getting to watch her record her latest album during this documentary was so lovely. It inspired me to check out her entire discogprahy.


Catch Music Pictures: New Orleans at VIFF.

The 41st Vancouver International Film Festival runs September 29 – October 9.

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