Music Documentary Feature

USA, 96 Minutes
Director Sascha Just
Producers Sascha Just, Elizabeth Kalos-Kaplan
Screenwriter Sascha Just
Cast Ellis Marsalis III, Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Jason Marsalis, Wendell Pierce

ELLIS is the first feature-length documentary about Ellis Marsalis Jr. and the Marsalis Music Family, often called the First Family of Jazz.
The film chronicles the life of this exceptional New Orleans composer, performer, and educator, the profound influence that the city had on him -- and that he had on the jazz that came out of New Orleans. It is also a story of how one man transcended racial injustices he faced from his birth during segregation to his death from COVID 19.

Made with the full cooperation of Ellis, his family and everyone around him, ELLIS is told from an insider perspective with never-before-seen footage. For three years until his passing in April 2020, I worked closely with Ellis Marsalis on this film about his life. He tells it in his own words and he guides us through the events of his life in his own way: With his music. We filmed Ellis' last concerts at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York and Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro in New Orleans, and a solo concert at the Marsalis Center for Music performed exclusively for the film.

These concerts are interlaced with verité scenes that place Ellis in his city and with interviews with his sons Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, Ellis III., and Jason, and colleagues, and disciples. Archival footage and photos take us back to New Orleans of the early twentieth century, to California of the fifties where Ellis served in the Marines and played with modernist giant Ornette Coleman, to New York of the seventies where he toured, and to his classrooms throughout the years.

The result is more than a biography of one of jazz's heroes. The film interweaves Ellis' accomplishments with key threads of American cultural history, placing him in historical context as someone who was both deeply affected the by world around him, and who, by responding to it helped to shape that world.

Festivals & Awards


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