Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool

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USA | 2019 | 115 minutes | Stanley Nelson

Never-seen footage, never-heard music tracks, and narration based on the text of his autobiography join interviews with family members and musical colleagues to form this portrait of the hard-living jazzman (1926-91).

"The Birth of Cool captures everything that Miles poured into the creation of his mood ring of sound."—Variety

Miles Davis was raised by the second wealthiest man in Illinois, which was remarkable for an African-American at the time. His father's wealth enabled his access to a new trumpet and many opportunities. Despite his resources and talent, young Miles could not be protected from the impact of Jim Crow America, nor from the PTSD that resulted from growing up in a home riddled with domestic violence. This unique background, of both unusual privilege and anger, became a foundation for his career. Director Stanley Nelson has spun a beautiful film, rooted in just the right amount of glory and honesty, about an intensely complicated superstar—not an easy line to walk with a genius who lived a messy, tempestuous, drug-riddled life that might be hard for some fans to understand. Despite his personal challenges and failures, it cannot be ignored that Davis birthed absolute magic in his role as a spiritual vessel of musical expression. Through interviews, found footage, archival materials, voice-overs, and never-heard music tracks, layers of his life are uncovered in a way that feels constantly enlightening. In fact, just as jazz reveals its many nuances through multiple listens, this is a film you'll want to watch a few times. Even adoring followers will learn something new and feel inspired by this historic legacy of black genius.

Tracy Rector

Director Biography
Stanley Nelson is an American documentary filmmaker and a Macarthur Genius Fellow known for documentaries examining African-American history and experiences, a career that spans decades. Among his many honors, including Peabody and Emmy awards, he is a recipient of the 2013 National Humanities Medal from President Obama and a 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Nelson also co-founded Firelight Media, a non-profit production company, to support social justice, promote untold stories, and encourage young filmmakers.

Sponsored by KEXP 90.3 FM, The Walls Vineyards , Punch Drunk

  • Director: Stanley Nelson
  • Principal Cast: Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Carlos Santana
  • Country: USA, United Kingdom
  • Year: 2019
  • Running Time: 115 minutes
  • Producer: Stanley Nelson, Nicole London
  • Editors: Lewis Erskine
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Awards: Cleveland International Film Festival 2019 (Music Movies Award)
  • Filmography: Rise Up: The Movement that Changed America (Doc., 2018), Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities (Doc., 2017), The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (Doc., 2015), Freedom Summer (Doc, 2014), Freedom Riders (Doc., 2010), Wounded Knee (Doc., 2009), Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (Doc., 2006), A Place of Our Own (Doc., 2004), The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords (Doc., 1999)
  • Language: English
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • Format: DCP
  • International Sales: Eagle Rock Entertainment