17th Apr2014

‘Made In America’ Review

by Richard Axtell

Features: Jay-Z, Kanye West, Gary Clark Jr, Pearl Jam, Run DMC, Rita Ora, Santigold | Directed by Ron Howard


Made in America is Jay-Z’s dream music festival. He brings together musical artists from all across different genres in a concert which celebrates the diversity and the power of music to bring people together. Follow Jay-Z behind the scenes as he organises this large festival, styled as the ‘biggest concert of the year’, to be held in Philadelphia.

I’m going to start this review by confessing that I have never listened to any of Jay-Z’s music. I have heard of him but only really in passing and I have never actively sought out any of his work. That being said, Made in America is not solely about Jay-Z. It includes a range of musical artists performing between segments of interviews and filming including Gary Clark Jr and Pearl Jam which really increases the repertoire of the film itself, not focusing on a particular taste in music. These big names provide the sound track all the way through giving the film an amazing musical background which keeps up throughout, this in turn, means it can appeal to a wider audience, not just the hip-hop crowd.

Directed by Ron Howard, what I really liked about this documentary film was the fact that it didn’t just follow the artists. Yes, there are interviews with the artists, Run DMC, Rita Ora, Santigold to name a few and they do offer some interesting, upbeat and positive insights into their past, how they became artists, their life before fame and on life in general. If you are particularly a fan of an artist, it definitely reveals a side of them not generally seen. However, my favourite sections followed the runners backstage as they work, the woman who lives across the street (who delivers some classic lines) whilst the festival is on and the woman who is working hard in a catering truck, desperate to try and get enough money to keep going. I really felt that these scenes really showed the message that the film was trying get across, about everyone working together and diversity in the United States of America.

Of course, if not all the music is to your taste then sections of this film can drag a bit as you wait for the next artist to begin. That being said, it did introduce me to artists that I had never heard before so now I could at least put a name to a face if I did ever discover them again at a later date. I think what mainly irked me about this film, was that its message of diversity and working together was of course a good one, but it was also very Americanised. I suppose being called “Made in America” I shouldn’t really be surprised. It did feel like every United States citizen watching should pat themselves on the back for being amazing but it leaves the rest of the world out in the cold a little bit and might retract (for us foreigners at least) a little bit from what the film was trying to get across.

Of course if you are just watching the film for the music then this is definitely something you are going to want to see. Made in America is released on DVD on May 19th, courtesy of Signature Entertainment.


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