Take Me to the River: New Orleans (2022) Review
Documentaries can be a lottery. You can take any fascinating subject you can possibly think of, but if it isn’t crafted with passion and soul, you’re better off just throwing your favourite series on instead. Take Me to the River: New Orleans does not have this problem. It feels like a passion project of the highest order.
Take Me to the River tells a simple story at its heart – a story of New Orleans. We all have our pre-conceptions of the city, having visited or not. Soulful. Proud. Beautiful. One of the world's richest cultural hubs. But as director Martin Shore drives home, music is one of New Orleans' most powerful offerings to the world. Tracking the journey of music alongside the culture of the city is the root of the documentary - with archival footage, studio sessions, interviews, along with a healthy dose of local history to enrich your mind and soul.
Boasting one of the best casts of characters a documentary could assemble, Take Me to the River has a knack of demanding your attention with its musical star power. Narrated throughout by the iconic tones of Jon Goodman, you’re guided through the 110 minute runtime with the “Soul Queen of New Orleans” Irma Thomas, one of the godfathers of funk music in George Porter Jr., the incredible Neville Brothers and, of course, Snoop Dogg himself. There’s a clear reverence the Shore holds for the musicians of New Orleans, who helped to transform the city’s music scene time and time again, and there’s something special about that approach as a viewer.
Take Me to the River packs a hefty emotional punch through its handling of Katrina and the impact on the music of the city, as well as in its studio footage
Most importantly, Take Me to the River does two things that a good documentary simply has to achieve to rank towards the top end of the scale – educate and emote – and it does them in spades. Now, granted, my knowledge of The Big Easy was sparse beforehand, but I came away with newfound knowledge of the Native American impact on New Orleans culture through the Mardi Gras Indians, a greater image of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, and an even greater appreciation for the fortitude of the city and its people to overcome.
Yet as if that wasn’t enough, Take Me to the River packs a hefty emotional punch through its handling of Katrina and the impact on the music of the city, as well as in its studio footage. The bulk of the movie is made up of recording sessions with New Orleans musical royalty, and it is these moments where you find yourself truly appreciating what Martin Shore has created. Whether it is Irma Thomas passing the torch to a younger artist, or the final time all the Neville brothers were present before Art and Charles passed in 2019 and 2018, respectively. Special moments to witness, and even more special when celebrating the city and its musical heritage.