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THE WHOLE GRITTY CITY - Launching the Film's video poster

New Orleans marching bands: The powerful engines that drive the Mardi Gras Parades. The front line in a battle for survival. Read more

pledged of $50,000 goal
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This project was successfully funded on October 10, 2012.

New Orleans marching bands: The powerful engines that drive the Mardi Gras Parades. The front line in a battle for survival.

About this project

"Gritty City is glorious. Alternately heartbreaking and joyous one instant to the next" - David Simon, creator of The Wire and  Treme.

The Whole Gritty City is a documentary feature film that plunges viewers into the world of New Orleans marching bands. It's a story of mentors helping kids get past the lures and dangers of the streets and make it to adulthood, as they pass on a powerful musical legacy.

We are very grateful to supporters of our Kickstarter campaign in 2011 - over 500 ardent believers in the project - who made it possible to complete a rough cut. Now we are almost ready to complete the film and premiere it at festivals early next year. We need to raise at least $50,000 for this final push, to cover sound mixing, color correction, titles, graphics, insurance and legal costs. Thanks to all of our new backers who are helping to get us to this final stage. We still need more of you to join us to reach our goal by the 8 am October 10th deadline. Please join us in bringing this film to audiences!

To get a taste of it check out the video. If you like it, please embed it, link to it, share it with your friends.

Your support at whatever level you can afford will make a crucial difference. By Kickstarter rules, if we don't reach our goal by October 10th we don't get a penny and your pledge is erased. But if we can raise more than our goal it will be invaluable in helping us complete the film and laying the groundwork for its  theatrical release.

Watch this video to meet the filmmakers - including three band members, Bear, Jazz and Skully:


"Once that band gives you that down beat...just for that brief two or three minutes you forget every problem you had. You have no cares in the world...Yeah it must be nice to live like that with no cares in the world." - Wilbert Rawlins Jr.

For those living in a city traumatized by a flood, besieged by a daily toll of street violence, there's a deep longing to have "no cares in the world".

But New Orleans is also the birthplace of jazz: a community that draws on a deeply rooted musical culture to lift and sustain itself. The city's marching bands are at the center of the Mardi Gras parades. They're crucial links passing a musical legacy to a new generation. And for thousands of kids they're lifelines.

The Whole Gritty City begins post-Katrina a few months before the Mardi Gras celebration. The directors of two high school bands and a new band for young beginners are pushing their students to their limits, preparing them to march in two grueling, exciting weeks of parades. They work with urgency and passion. They're passing on to their students a legacy that once saved their own lives. We follow them through struggles, tragedies and triumphs, with plenty of powerful, passionate music along the way.

The band directors know these kids. They've walked in their shoes. They know how to unleash talents these kids never knew they had, drive them to accomplish things they never dreamed they were capable of. They offer kids a refuge, a means of self-expression, and a way to aspire and achieve that's true to the best of who they are. They draw them into being part of an ongoing cultural legacy that is local and vibrant, yet transcendent: New Orleans' great gift to the world.

This film shines a light on one African American community, and on the battle between the destructive and the positive forces shaping the fate of a new generation.

"You put a kid in a band, you give him something that's his own. He now has control over the rest of his life." - Wilbert Rawlins Jr.

We're concentrating now on finishing and releasing the film. Once it's out there, we're committed to using the film to promote discussion and positive change. Partnering with organizations concerned with music and arts education, mentorship, juvenile justice and violence prevention, we'll take the film to a truly broad audience.

Please spread the word about the film and our Kickstarter campaign. Facebook it, Tweet it. Tell your friends, family and colleagues. We will continue posting updates here, including some outtakes from our filming.

How to Pledge - Just click the green "Back this Project" button in the upper right-hand corner. You will be asked to input your pledge amount and select a reward. From there, you will go through the Amazon checkout process. You must finish the Amazon checkout process for your pledge to e recorded. At the end of the fundraising campaign, we'll contact you to get any additional information that may be needed (i.e. shipping address, etc.).

What's the plan? - Once we reach our goal we will begin an intense schedule of post production in November 2012. Then the completed film will be ready to send to festivals in early 2013. We'll follow festival premieres with theatrical release, first premiering in New Orleans and New York City, and then in theaters around the country. Then we hope it will be picked up by television here and abroad, and eventually be released online and on DVD, and be seen by a truly wide audience.

A note on Treme - While we were making the film, David Simon was creating HBO's Treme, another powerful tapestry of stories about New Orleanians' struggles and their music. Recently David Simon looked at our nearly-finished film for the first time. We're proud to say he really likes it! Treme's third season started September 23.  Roots of Music founder Derrick Tabb, who is featured in The Whole Gritty City, played himself in several scenes. As the season continues you'll see two characters played by Roots of Music band members featured in our film: Jaron "Bear" Willams and Jazz Henry.

We started work on the film five years ago, working nights and weekends and on unpaid breaks from our jobs. It's been a labor of love. It's very exciting to be at this point, and we wouldn't be here if it weren't for our Kickstarter collaborators. Please join us. Please contact us. When you see the finished film I think you'll be proud to be part of it.


Richard Barber, Producer/Director The Whole Gritty City


Please check out the rewards for backers in the right column. Please note that for rewards to be sent outside North America add $25 for shipping.

NEW REWARD! We are now able to offer a limited number of catalogs from New Orleans artist Bruce Davenport Jr.'s recent show at VACANT Tokyo. Davenport, often described as a "self-taught artist", grew up in New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward. He started drawing scenes of his surroundings as a child, including scenes of street crimes, violence, arrests, trials and prison life. He also began drawing the school marching bands which inspired him with their power and dignity. Continuing with these themes in adulthood Davenport has begun to build a reputation for his unique, intricately-patterned depictions, particularly of marching bands and parades scenes. His work has been shown in prominent shows in New Orleans, New York and Tokyo. Davenport and his work appear in The Whole Gritty City.

Here's a mock-up of the design for the T-shirt for $100 backers. The design is subject to change, but it won't change much. The design is from an original picture of The O. Perry Walker High School Marching Band created by Bruce Davenport Jr.

For backers at the $75 and $126 levels, you can choose a photo - either the photo of the young trumpeter Bear in the doorway on top of the page, or one of the photos at the bottom of the page, all by photographer/cinematographer Andre Lambertson.


New backers are sharing their thoughts in the comments section of this page. Here are some earlier ones from an outpouring of response on our Facebook, Youtube and Kickstarter pages, and email:

I can't wait til The Whole Gritty City releases. The reason is simply because it captures the reality of what kids in N.O. live with every day, and how band helps them get away from it all. Even to this day, we're burying kids who are trying to defeat the odds. That movie will mean a lot to the city's band community. Hopefully folks elsewhere will understand that's what black kids in N.O. go through daily just to try to LIVE. - Joshua Cousin

For such a long time I've hoped that someone would tell this little-known story about New Orleans. - Stephanie Morrison

Teared up just watching the trailer thinking of all the shit kids in this city have to wade through and how hard some do try. Donating because this will be a great movie that explains the love and pain of New Orleans. - Jeff Shyman

I watch the trailer when I need a booster shot of hope. - Eve Troeh

A world without violence. Only with passion!! - crazy0752

I can not wait for this to come out. If it wasn't for band I probably would've been a dropout. I'm so happy that people from around the world can see how music influences young children. - The08monique

I get tears in my eyes every time I watch this. THIS is New Orleans. This is the future of the culture. It must survive. Nothing is more important. - doctorj2u2

I am a current band member for the Helen Cox Marching Cougars!!! HCC!!! When I see this video I get tears and joy, knowing that bands are changing for the best, and are changing kids too! I can't wait til this comes out. - techy211

Broke me down - this simple short. When I think of the importance of art in the lives of people and especially in the lives of black boys, and what the world is doing to take that from them, it really breaks my heart, man. ...And this work is so important...You remind us that at the end of the day, art - the capacity to make something that is so much a part of our humanity, is so critical to our human survival and when it is demeaned it is a travesty, a sad and painful travesty. My children are all musicians. In many ways, we could afford it. They should not be the only ones to be able to benefit from this. It is wrong. - Kwame Dawes

African American music is the great American gift to the world and its origins are part of an improbable city. Yet in New Orleans, music is the gift that the city still gives to itself, every day. This beautiful film is the evidence." - David Simon

For regular updates about our film and our Kickstarter campaign, and news about the people and the bands featured in The Whole Gritty City - check out our website (and sign up for our mailing list) -

- check out our Facebook page -

- and you can follow us on Twitter -



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    When you support the film at this and every other level your name will appear on the website's supporters page and on the Facebook page (unless you ask us to keep your donation anonymous). And you will have our heartfelt thanks!

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    All the above PLUS a "The Whole Gritty City" poster

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    All the above PLUS a DVD as soon as released

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    NEW REWARD! 8" x 10" color photo by cinematographer Andre Lambertson (see photos below). This is included in all the higher pledge packages except the $125 T-shirt.

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    All the above PLUS an all-cotton "The Whole Gritty City" T-shirt

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    Button, poster, video link, DVD - PLUS an 8" x 10" color photo by cinematographer Andre Lambertson (see photos below)

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    7 backers Limited (23 left of 30)

    SPECIAL NEW REWARD! 13" x 10 1/4" limited edition catalog: "Good Stuff to Look At", New Orleans artist Bruce Davenport Jr.'s 2012 show at VACANT Tokyo. Davenport creates striking artworks depicting the marching bands, and he appears in the film. Read more about him and see images in the project description. Catalog is 36 pages, 14 color plates. Introductory essay in English and Japanese. Signed by the artist. Please note, this limited-quantity reward is not included in any other pledge level.

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    All the above PLUS 2 free tickets to the premiere in New Orleans or NYC (or theatrical screening in city near you) PLUS an on-screen thanks in the film's credits. Travel expenses not included.

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    All the above PLUS dinner with director Richard Barber and co-director Andre Lambertson (expires in 1 year). (Also for large amounts it's possible to make tax-deductible donations through our fiscal sponsor. Please contact us directly at for that.)

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    All of the above PLUS be part of our team with a special screen credit. Contact us at info@thewholegrittycity for details.

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Funding period

- (30 days)