The collaboration between director Ron Howard and hip-hop legend Jay-Z on a music documentary may at first glance seem crazy, but it soon becomes apparent that the director of Frost/Nixon and A Beautiful Mind is perfect for the job.
Couched within this documentary on Jay-Z organising a two-day concert in Philadelphia is the inspirational tale of how a young Brooklyn street hoodlum used music as a way out of a life of crime and is now helping others. Ostensibly about the “Made in America” concert Jay-Z organised in September 2012, Howard shows the positive impact the concert has on the local community through interviews with artists playing at the festival, local residents and those working behind the scenes. The message that hard work pays dividends is reinforced throughout.
Jay-Z, husband of Beyoncé Knowles, reveals he organised the concert to celebrate the diminishing racial divide in the US, hoping the country’s first black president will soon be followed by a Latino president, a female president and a gay president. But the big disappointment is Howard’s failure to get anything more than a superficial insight into Jay-Z.
Local resident Lillian Fowler steals the show. The septuagenarian is unhappy, complaining about the “bang-bang music”, but on hearing Jill Scott, she says: “I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong.”