Made in America Blu-ray Review
Philadelphia has the image of an underdog and so it was a big deal in the national media that it would host the first Made in America Festival, held over Labor Day Weekend in 2012.
On September 1st and 2nd of 2012, more than 70,000 attendees showed up at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (thousands more streamed the event live) to see some of their favorite bands and artists, and perhaps an act they had never heard of. The excellent lineup included Gary Clark Jr., Chris Cornell, D’Angelo, DJ Shadow, Drake, The Hives, Janelle Monae, Odd Future, Rita Ora, Passion Pit, Run-DMC, Santigold, Jill Scott, Skrillex and X. Jay-Z, who developed the idea, headlined the opening night (and ended his set with a duet with Kanye West), while Pearl Jam closed the final night with a 25-song set (including “99 Problems” with Jay-Z).
Mayor Michael Nutter was more than happy to have his city host the event, as it would surely generate money for Philadelphia—and it did, as reports stated it pulled in $10 million for the city (perhaps in major part to the $11 beers?). One clip in Ro Howard’s documentary shows a local food vendor preparing, hoping she will pull in enough money to fix up her truck. The intentions all around are noble, which is part of what made Made in America what it was.
The rest of what it was is touched on in Howard’s documentary, titled, simply, MADE IN AMERICA. There’s the music, the people and the purpose, but all of it is presented in broad strokes, leaving those potentially affected by the concert (like, say, the woman with the food truck, who needs to pull in $3,000 a day, or the employees staying up until 1 a.m. on the nights leading up to and of the concert) as minor characters who are given some important screen time to discuss the American Dream but still pushed aside for the main stage acts. Considering how much promotion the musicians got, shouldn’t those who normally don’t get a voice be in the spotlight more? Why do we need to see Miike Snow pace on stage or Tyler, the Creator dressed as a Minotaur from a music video or Ron Howard learning about dubstep when we could find out how the food truck and t-shirt salespeople did financially once the amps were packed up?
While he certainly asks questions that highlight the significance of the event, Howard and his team don’t dig enough and spend too much time on the millionaires, in a structure that hops from musician to musician, snagging interviews and following with a clip of one of their numbers. At its deepest, MADE IN AMERICA is a plug for Jay-Z and his project, even though neither needs it.
The Made in America Festival was an incredible one filled with a wealth of talent that did good things for the economy and spirit of Philadelphia and its people. Unfortunately, Howard’s movie doesn’t capture this as thoroughly as it could have, resulting in an unnecessary documentary on a noteworthy weekend.
MADE IN AMERICA BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.78:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. While the video quality is spotty in terms of details, the transfer is still clean and without any significant disturbances.
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. The dialogue is clear throughout, but it’s the musical performances that are the highlight of the transfer.
There are no special features on this release.