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ELLIS

ELLIS is the first feature-length documentary about Ellis Marsalis Jr. and the Marsalis Music Family, often called the First Family of Jazz.
The film chronicles the life of this exceptional New Orleans composer, performer, and educator, the profound influence that the city had on him -- and that he had on the jazz that came out of New Orleans. It is also a story of how one man transcended racial injustices he faced from his birth during segregation to his death from COVID 19.

Made with the full cooperation of Ellis, his family and everyone around him, ELLIS is told from an insider perspective with never-before-seen footage. For three years until his passing in April 2020, I worked closely with Ellis Marsalis on this film about his life. He tells it in his own words and he guides us through the events of his life in his own way: With his music. We filmed Ellis' last concerts at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York and Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro in New Orleans, and a solo concert at the Marsalis Center for Music performed exclusively for the film.

These concerts are interlaced with verité scenes that place Ellis in his city and with interviews with his sons Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, Ellis III., and Jason, and colleagues, and disciples. Archival footage and photos take us back to New Orleans of the early twentieth century, to California of the fifties where Ellis served in the Marines and played with modernist giant Ornette Coleman, to New York of the seventies where he toured, and to his classrooms throughout the years.

The result is more than a biography of one of jazz's heroes. The film interweaves Ellis' accomplishments with key threads of American cultural history, placing him in historical context as someone who was both deeply affected the by world around him, and who, by responding to it helped to shape that world.

  • Sascha Just
    Director
    Big Chief
  • Sascha Just
    Producer
  • Elizabeth Kalos-Kaplan
    Producer
  • Ellis Marsalis
    Key Cast
  • Branford Marsalis
    Key Cast
  • Wynton Marsalis
    Key Cast
  • Jason Marsalis
    Key Cast
  • Delfeayo Marsalis
    Key Cast
  • Ellis III. Marsalis
    Key Cast
  • Wendell Pierce
    Key Cast
  • Jesse McBride
    Key Cast
  • Kalamu Y Salaam
    Key Cast
  • Sascha Just
    Writer
  • David S. White
    Cinematography
  • Paul Galan
    Cinematography
  • Crista Rock
    Cinematography
  • Michelle Barbin
    Editor
  • Christian Bäucker
    Editor
  • Jon Vogl
    Sound Design & Audio Mix
  • Aidan Dykes
    Sound Design & Audio Mix
  • Will Milvid
    Color Grading
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Genres:
    Music, jazz, biography, history
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 36 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    October 29, 2022
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    4K
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
  • DOC NYC
    New York City
    United States
    November 10, 2022
    World Premiere
    Official Selection
  • American Documentary & Animation Film Festival
    Palm Springs
    United States
    March 31, 2023
    California Premiere
    Official Selection
  • RiverRun International Film Festival
    Winston-Salem
    United States
    April 16, 2023
    Official Selection
  • USA Film Festival
    Dallas
    United States
    April 22, 2023
    Official Selection
  • New Orleans Jazz Museum
    New Orleans
    United States
    May 2, 2023
    New Orleans Premiere
  • E-Day Festival
    New Orleans
    United States
    May 4, 2023
  • Harlem International Film Festival
    New York City
    United States
    Official Selection
  • Krakow International Film Festival
    Krakow
    Poland
    June 2, 2023
    European Premiere
    Music Documentary Competition
  • See the Sound
    Cologne
    Germany
    June 23, 2023
    German Premiere
    Official Selection
  • LETs DOK
    Berlin
    Germany
    September 11, 2023
    Official Selection
  • LET's DOK
    Berlin
    Germany
    September 13, 2023
    Official Selection
  • University of New Orleans
    New Orleans, LA
    United States
    October 6, 2023
  • Tryon International Film Festival
    Tryon, North Carolina
    United States
    October 8, 2023
    Official Selection
  • Mystic Film Festival
    Westerly, Rhode Island
    United States
    October 21, 2023
    Official Selection
  • Tulane University
    New Orleans, La
    United States
    October 12, 2023
  • Lake County Film Festival
    Lake County, Il
    United States
    November 10, 2023
    Official Selection
  • Xavier University
    New Orleans, LA
    United States
    November 14, 2023
Director Biography - Sascha Just

Sascha Just is a New York-based filmmaker, born and raised in Berlin. She emigrated to the US to make films about jazz and jazz-related topics.

Prior to ELLIS, Sascha produced and directed HEIRS, a feature-length documentary about three New Orleans artists, the short documentary BIG CHIEF about New Orleans Black Indian Chief Darryl Montanta's path to Mardi Gras, and the short documentary AMBASSADORS about a competition for the title Jazz Ambassadors to the US. Sascha's films screened among other at DOC NYC, the American Documentary Film Festival, RiverRun International Film Festival, USA Film Festival, Katra Film Series, The Segal Film Festival, and the International Institute "Interweaving Performance Cultures". Ambassadors is part of the permanent collection of the Rancho Mirage Public Library and was finalist for best short documentary at the Queens World Film Festival, 2014.

For her work on the Freytag Collection, an archive of New Orleans performers and performance traditions, the United States Government granted her the rare national interest-based permanent resident status.

Sascha holds a BA in Film, an MA /PhD in Theater Studies from the City University of New York (CUNY). She teaches in the Communications Department of Baruch College, CUNY.

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