The Miles Davis Movie: Why Not A Feature Documentary About Miles Davis?

I just finished watching When You’re Strange, Tom DiCillo’s feature documentary about the music and legacy of The Doors. I thought it was rather well-done and interesting. I like The Doors, so it’s no stretch for me to be a fan of the doc, which features some mighty impressive footage.

So I wonder, even with Don Cheadle’s ‘not a bio-pic’ movie about Miles Davis slowly crawling towards a production start date, is it possible to get a feature film documentary about the music and legacy of Miles Davis off the ground? And if so, who to make it happen?

Now that we know Cheadle is opting to focus his film’s narrative on an as-yet-unknown day and a half in the life of Miles Davis rather than follow the usual, Hollywood bio-pic blueprint, perhaps a comprehensive feature documentary could be produced to truly capture Davis’ life and music.

I imagine a producer or director interested in such a terrific idea would need the blessings of the Miles Davis estate and various music labels; the music is obviously the key ingredient, but previously unseen footage and assorted photo/audio content is almost a necessity in providing such a film project added importance.

Christopher Wilkinson (who along with Stephen J. Rivele were once the screenwriters on the Untitled Miles Davis Biopic) is working on the TV project The Miles Davis Documentary, which IMDB lists for a 2011 release. I’ve read the doc is headed to HBO, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet.

So we’ll see what Wilkinson comes up with. The producers look to have landed a host of jazz legends and other fine, musical artists to chat about Miles Davis, but hopefully there’s some rare concert footage, or old interviews with Davis, mixed in to give the doc an extra spark. But we remain excited about the upcoming project.

Nevertheless, if the powers that be running the estate that oversees the business of Miles Davis wanted to get moving on a big-time feature documentary I think it would get done.

Cheadle is having trouble finding the funds to get the cameras rolling, so why would a documentary have better luck? It might not, but I have to imagine the cost would be much less. With the exception of interviews to be filmed, everything else is the music and lots and lots of audio and video footage to be edited.

Okay, so it’d be nice to hire someone with a great voice to narrate (famous or not), but that shouldn’t break the bank.

I already offered up the feature film versus Ken Burns’ documentary debate about which is the better way to produce a Miles Davis Biopic, so maybe Ken Burns might want to look into a project about Davis for the big screen.

Then again, if Burns wanted to take a 6-hour documentary about Miles Davis to PBS I’m overjoyed with that idea. I’m also totally ready for a 5-part/10-hour HBO movie event that has the luxury of time to tell the complete story. These two options, plus the feature film doc are great ideas!

I am excited about what Cheadle has up his sleeve. Just watching Cheadle on screen portraying Davis is going to get jazz/music/films fans all worked up when this movie gets done.

But regardless of Cheadle’s final cut, I still think a comprehensive telling of the Miles Davis story is essential.


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