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Ornette: Made in America1985

  • 4.0
ORNETTE: MADE IN AMERICA captures Ornette Coleman's evolution over three decades. Returning home to Fort Worth, Texas, in 1983 as a famed performer and composer, documentary footage, dramatic scenes and some of the first music video-style segments ever made chronicle his boyhood in segregated Texas and his subsequent emergence as an American cultural pioneer and world-class icon. Among those who contribute to the film include William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Buckminster Fuller, Don Cherry, Yoko Ono, Charlie Haden, Robert Palmer, Jayne Cortez and John Rockwell. The film focuses on the struggles and triumphs of Ornette Coleman's life as well as on the inspired intelligence that spawned his creativity and ensured his success. Shirley Clarke's footage includes Ornette in conversation with family and friends; excerpts of interviews, riffs and travels, along with footage of his performances (in New York; in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas; in Morocco and beyond) presents the most comprehensive record of his career available. ORNETTE: MADE IN AMERICA explores the rhythms, images and myths of America seen through they eyes of an artist's ever-expanding imagination and experience.

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"Clarke’s film isn’t a biography in any conventional sense, but one that adopts Coleman’s freewheeling, exploratory and intuitive approach to his music and applies it to cinema." - Kevin B. Lee, Keyframe

2 members like this review

I love Ornette Coleman. The direction in the film was a bit too heavy-handed yet it didn't detract from the man's genius nor his music. Recommended.

Member Reviews (8)

This film functions competently as an extended music video for Ornette Coleman's challenging music. It is, regrettably, short on documentary content, and many of the avant-garde bells and whistles which the director attaches come across as dated and gimmicky. That Shirley Clarke's style does not do Coleman justice is, of course, understandable. Fans of modern and experimental art will be satisfied by the opportunity to view one of America's great creative geniuses performing and discussing his music. Make no mistake, his art is shocking and difficult - but full of expressive power and cathartic moments. Thirty years later, it still sounds just as fresh as it did when it was new; the rest of us are still catching up.

2 members like this review

I love Ornette Coleman. The direction in the film was a bit too heavy-handed yet it didn't detract from the man's genius nor his music. Recommended.

2 members like this review

This film truly fizzles with psychedelic brilliance! At times it blips with mid-late-eighties pulp futurism and at times it scuttles with hurried jazz breakdowns scurrying the narrative along. We have an avant garde breath of fresh air - that is a surprising charmer - on our hands. Redemption for it's being dated can be afforded, it actually serves for a more aching nostalgia to pre-digitalism.

Sweet work, as is true of most of Shirley's fine films. I thought it took a bit longer than necessary to develop, yet I trusted this filmmaker to know what she was doing. This may nøt be her best work, but it's a fine work that should not be overlooked. I wish there were more people making films like this.

wonderful and unique



Great footage and an insightful look into the life and thoughts of the American composer and improvising musician Ornette Coleman. Technically, the film is an awkward combination of documentary and art film. I kind of wish they'd picked one or the other. Wonderful, all the same.