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Miles Davis - Birth of the Cool
Considering Miles Davis’s prominent role within the history of jazz, the lack of cinematic documentaries about this exceptional musician is surprising. Director Stanley Nelson, known for his fierce films on African American history, sets out to redress this oversight. With an open mind, he examines “Miles” the legend, not shying away from the musician’s darker sides: drug misuse, violence against women, and, at times, a questionable behavior towards fellow musicians. And yet, the film’s main focus always remains on the leitmotif of Davis’s artistic life: his determination to transcend borders and to constantly reinvent himself beyond the scope of existing norms. Nelson uses archival material and excerpts from Davis’s autobiography and gathers voices of music experts, renowned musicians like Quincy Jones and Carlos Santana, of Davis’s children as well as of ex-wives and girlfriends to create a kaleidoscopic portrait of an artist who, like no other, has shaped American cultural history.
Stanley Nelson is among the premier documentary filmmakers working today. His feature-length films combine compelling narratives with rich and deeply researched historical detail, shining new light on both familiar and under-explored aspects of the American past. Two of Nelson’s recent films, "Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities" (2018) which chronicled the 150-year history and impact of HBCUs, and "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution" (2016), the first comprehensive feature-length documentary portrait of that iconic organization, broke audience records for African American viewership on the PBS series Independent Lens. "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution" won the 2016 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Documentary Film. Nelson’s latest film, "Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool", the definitive look at the life and career of the iconic Miles Davis, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019. The screen-ing marked Nelson’s tenth premiere at the prestigious festival in twenty years, the most premieres of any documentary filmmaker.