A revealing look at world-changing musician Louis Armstrong arrives on October 28 from Apple. “Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues,” directed by Sacha Jenkins, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and proved an antidote to the sort of hagiographic music documentaries delivered by Ken Burns, per IndieWire’s Christian Blauvelt. Watch the trailer for the documentary, an IndieWire exclusive, below.
The film offers an unprecedented look at the iconic trumpeter, presented through a lens of archival footage and never-before-heard home recordings and personal conversations, according to the official synopsis. The documentary honors Armstrong’s legacy as a founding father of jazz, one of the first internationally known and beloved stars, and a cultural ambassador of the United States. The film shows how Armstrong’s own life spans the shift from the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement, and how he became a lightning rod figure in that turbulent era.
“I think some people believe that Louis Armstrong had no interest in Civil Rights,” Jenkins told IndieWire. “It’s true, he wasn’t marching in any protests or sitting in on any sit-ins, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t for the cause. He was a man of a different time. He often put his money where his mouth was in regards to the great American racial divide. Armstrong was really worried about getting injured and therefore not being able to perform. Any older person in the same situation might feel that way.”
The film takes a decidedly nonlinear approach to Armstrong’s life and career. “Armstrong’s life was all over the place, all over the world. A straight, linear look at his life would probably have an 18-hour run. Our jumping keeps the conversations fresh and the viewer literally on their toes. Armstrong also had a broad range of interests. You can go from marijuana to laxatives in a flash,” Jenkins said.
To those who thought Armstrong was apolitical, Jenkins has a different take. As he said, “Armstrong started to get booked at the ritziest, whitest hotels the world over. His ‘I don’t play if I can’t stay’ policy was a game changer. If that isn’t standing up for you people and standing up for what is right, I don’t know what is.”
“Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues” will be released by Apple TV+ on October 28.