Jazz in Five Points: Movies

Brilliant studio recording of choreographed works, including Cry danced by Judith Jamison, features blues, spirituals, gospel music, ragtime, folk songs and modern jazz. Directed by Thomas Grimm. Kanopy


Alex is a contemporary jazz musician who returns home to Hawaii and takes refuge in a Buddhist B&B with a woman named Akiko. His experimental free jazz music at first collides with the sounds of Akiko’s meditation, but as the film evolves and a friendship develops, the two harmonize. Written and directed by Christopher Makoto Yogi. Kanopy


For the eight young men in the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, “brotherhood” is literal: they’re all sons of anti-establishment jazz legend, Phil Cohran. Cohran and their mothers raised them together on Chicago’s South Side on a strict diet of jazz, funk and Black Consciousness. Directed by Reuben Atlas. Kanopy

With an original soundtrack by legendary Cuban pianist and composer Bebo Valdés, this animated film captures a defining moment in the evolution of history and jazz. Directed by Fernando Trueba and co-written with ​Ignacio Martínez de Pisón. DVD | Kanopy

The award-winning documentary film tells the poignant, untold stories of female jazz and big band instrumentalists and their fascinating, history-making journeys from the late 30s to the present day. Directed by Judy Chaikin and co-written with Edward Osei-Gyimah. DVD | Kanopy


The 10-part documentary series opens at the dawn of the 20th century, incorporating American culture and historical events that interact directly with the music. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson and Keith David. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward and directed by Ken Burns. DVD | Kanopy

As both a pianist and composer, Mary Lou Williams was a font of daring and creativity who helped shape the sound of 20th century America. This two-part series includes the film directed by Carol Bash and a rediscovered orchestral composition entitled Chief. Kanopy


By the late 1930s Maxine Sullivan became one of the foremost women in jazz inspiring young musicians like Ella Fitzgerald. At one point during the 1960s, she was putting out an album every three months. Written and directed by Greta Schiller.  Kanopy

Talented trumpeter Bleek Gilliam, played by Denzel Washington, is obsessed by his music and indecisive about his girlfriends. But when he is forced to come to the aid of his manager and childhood friend, Bleek finds his world more fragile than he ever imagined. Written and directed by Spike Lee. DVD


This musical road film follows Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour's historical journey tracing the trail left by slaves and the jazz music they created. Directed by Pierre-Yves Borgeaud and co-written with Emmanuel Gétaz.  Kanopy

Legendary saxophonist Dexter Gordon plays Dale Turner, a brilliant New York jazz veteran searching for a fresh start in Paris. Herbie Hancock's evocative, Oscar-winning score sets the mood for this definitive jazz film. Based on The Dance of Infidels: a Portrait of Bud Powell. Directed by Bertrand Tavernier and co-written with David Rayfiel. DVD

Alumni from Houston's storied Kashmere High School Stage Band return home after 35 years to play a tribute concert for their beloved band leader who turned the struggling jazz band into a world-class funk powerhouse in the early 1970s. Directed by Mark Landsman.  DVD | Kanopy


The Library of Congress added this dynamic film of the 1972 benefit following the 1965 riots in Los Angeles to the National Film Registry. Audio commentary includes Albert King and Issac Hayes. Directed by Mel Stuart. DVD


Andrew Neyman is an ambitious young jazz drummer, single-minded in his pursuit to rise to the top of his elite east coast music conservatory. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle. DVD

Summaries provided by DPL's catalog unless otherwise noted. Click on each title to view more information.