LOS ANGELES – With Bonnie Raitt (search), Aaron Neville (search) and record-business legend Ahmet Ertegun (search) serving up love letters to its subject, the documentary "Make It Funky!" is nothing if not a cause to celebrate.
Nevertheless, there will be no flashy premiere, no brass bands blasting down Hollywood Boulevard for the film, which marks the start of its theatrical run this weekend at Grauman's Chinese Theater.
What a difference one hurricane and two weeks has made for a movie paying homage to the music of New Orleans.
Now, the closest thing to "Funky!" fanfare is that one of its opening-day showings will be free and open to the public, with attendees urged to fill a passing hat with money for New Orleans musicians displaced by Katrina (search).
The movie and the benefit are the work of New Orleans-based multimedia producer Michael Murphy, who told AP Television News that the timing of the film's release is purely coincidental, that the debut was long on the books.
Murphy should be basking in the glory of receptive film-festival audiences and some solid early reviews on the brink of his big opening day. Instead, he is clearly, merely road-weary.
"You know, standing here on Hollywood Boulevard and looking, you know, it's ...," apparently exhausted, he loses his train of thought for a second. "This, contrasted with what you're seeing on news ... my hometown under water, and people with nothing to eat and medical needs, some people dying. That's the big issue."
Murphy said he evacuated New Orleans just before Katrina hit, making an 18-hour drive to the first airport where he could hop a plane that would get him to Southern California, where he has family. Murphy said he is unsure if he actually has an inhabitable home to go home to in New Orleans.
In the meantime, at least he has "Make It Funky!" It was already his passion project, his own love letter to his hometown. But now the movie seems to serve greater purposes — as a record of some people and places that are likely gone for good, and as a plea to rebuild what Murphy said is an international treasure.
"The way it's worked out, if this film can make people discover the importance of that city and that culture, and how that city has culturally enriched the lives of people all over the world for years, millions and millions of people," he explained. "Well, there's a debt now. We've got to pay that back. And if this film winds up doing that, so be it."
The original goal of "Make It Funky!" was to come up with the most comprehensive filmed historical record of New Orleans' musical history. To create it, Murphy and company hit the streets.
"You know, I shot, like, 30 hours of footage, all over the city, capturing the back alleys, the French Quarter, neighborhoods that I know are no longer there," he said.
For now, for Murphy, Los Angeles will have to do. But he plans to return to New Orleans as soon as possible, which he said he expected would be in about two months.
And there's little doubt he'll restore what remains of his home, and rebuild the rest.
"What people will see (in the film) is that this is a city that is very important that we salvage," Murphy said. "We help that city lift itself up. I can't talk about how significant that is to me, but, also, the world cannot afford to lose that city."