Private Project

A Great Day in Paris

It all started with a celebrated photo and a nomadic friendship of more than 30 years between the jazzman Ricky Ford and the filmmaker Michka Saäl. Working for Esquire magazine, Art Kane brought together 57 jazz legends on the steps of a building in Harlem in 1958. In an homage 50 years later, Ricky Ford, with help from French photographer Philippe Lévy-Stab, gathered 75 American jazzmen and jazzwomen living in France for their own historic photo on the steps of Montmartre. Michka Saäl wanted to make a film that witnessed this event and explored the question of artistic exile. It took her 10 years to finish this film where passion for music and the transmission of ancient knowledge cement the bonds of friendship.

  • Michka Saal
    Spoon, China Me, Prisoners of Beckett
  • Michka Saal
    Spoon, China Me, Prisoners of Beckett
  • Michka Saal
    Spoon, China Me, Prisoners of Beckett
  • Ricky Ford
    Key Cast
  • John Betsch
    Key Cast
  • Sangoma Everett
    Key Cast
  • Bobby Few
    Key Cast
  • Kirk Lightsey
    Key Cast
  • Steve Potts
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 16 minutes 29 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    February 1, 2017
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Cinéma Saint André des Arts
    May 17, 2017
  • Cry from the Port, Marseille

    September 28, 2017
  • Jazz Day, Fouras
    January 27, 2018
  • Rendez-vous Québec Cinéma
    February 23, 2018
  • DOC-Cévennes
    May 11, 2018
  • MIMO 15
    July 21, 2018
  • BronzeLens Film Festival
    Atlanta, Georgia
    United States
    August 24, 2018
  • Manchester Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    March 10, 2019
    UK premiere
    Best Score
  • Festi Jazz
    August 28, 2019
  • Louvre Abu Dhabi
    Abh Dhabi
    United Arab Emirates
    October 9, 2019
Director Biography - Michka Saal

Born in Tunisia, Michka Saäl arrived in Quebec during the 1980s. Following two degrees in cinema, she began writing and directing both fiction and documentary films. Her early films such as The Sleeping Tree Dreams of its Roots explored notions of exile, difference and racism, themes that appear in nearly all of her work, including A Great Day in Paris. With Prisoners of Beckett in 2005, she started to break down the boundaries between documentary and fiction, introducing elements of theatre, poetry and dance in her work. She continued this exploration in China Me (2013) and Spoon (2015). In May 2017, A Great Day in Paris premiered at Cinéma Saint André des Arts in Paris for a two-week run. In July 2017, Michka Saäl passed away suddenly from an illness in Montreal. Her partner and team completed two additional films posthumously, New Memories (2018) and Mavericks (2019).

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Director Statement

My film “A Great Day in Paris” has been nearly 10 years in the making. It began as an idea by the saxophonist Ricky Ford to gather the community of expatriate American jazz musicians in France for a photograph in 2008 — a 50th anniversary homage to one of the most iconic photos in the history of jazz: Art Kane’s Harlem 1958. As an old friend of Ricky Ford and a jazz aficionado, I agreed to help him organize the event. Soon after, I decided to make a film of the event, which brought together about 75 musicians on the steps of Montmartre. Over the past decade, as my finances have permitted, I have complemented the footage of the “event” with interviews of six musicians to represent the diversity of the expatriate community, as well as footage of concerts and performances. Together, these elements paint a portrait of artistic exile, a fusion of genres and freedom as the bottom line for art.