In October, The Whole Gritty City, a stirring documentary directed by Richard Barber and Andre Lambertson that chronicles New Orleans area marching bands, premiered at the New Orleans Film Festival. On Saturday, February 15 at 8:00 p.m. (CST), Native New Orleanian, CBS News Cultural Correspondent and iconic jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis will host the documentary’s broadcast premiere as part of the network’s 48 Hours Presents series.
The Whole Gritty City follows the Roots of Music and O. Perry Walker and L.E. Rabouin High School marching bands as its students contend with post-Katrina life in the Crescent City. Beneath its proud traditions, the bands struggle to provide its members with an escape from the volatility, poverty and violence they face daily. Compiled from footage shot between 2007-10, co-director Barber’s inspiration for the documentary stems from a 48 Hours segment he produced that focused on post-Katrina violence in New Orleans, the murders of filmmaker Helen Hill and Hot 8 Brass Band drummer and L.E. Rabouin band director Dinerral Shavers, and the subsequent anti-violence march on City Hall. Shavers, who had also founded Rabouin’s marching band, was killed on December 28, 2006. A successful 2011 Kickstarter campaign netted Barber slightly more than the $50,000 he needed to put the finishing touches on the project.
Told from the points of view of the band directors and their students,The Whole Gritty City revolves around the pivotal role marching bands play its members lives. As dedicated to their students as they are their programs, directors Wilbert Rawlings Jr. (O. Perry Walker) and Derrick Tabb (Roots of Music) labor steadfastly and fight mightily to keep their bands together, steer their students down the straight and narrow and shield them from the streets. Several key moments in The Whole Gritty City’s story come by way of videos shot by students using handheld cameras supplied to them by Barber. In the wake of Shavers death, Rabouin drum major Chris “Skully” Lee comes into his own. Young Roots of Music trumpeter Jaron “Bear” Williams mourns the loss of his brother, who was shot and killed. O. Perry Walker drum major and To Be Continued Brass Band saxophonist Brandon Franklin falls victim to gun violence. All the while, through triumph and tragedy, the bands march on, riling up crowds in the stadiums, captivating revelers at the parades, and growing up and together in the classroom.
Wynton Marsalis hosts 48 Hours Presents: The Whole Gritty at 8:00 p.m. (CST) on CBS on Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 8:00 p.m.