There’s no type of documentary as shallow as those covering modern music festivals, a fact reconfirmed by Made in America, a recap of the two-day 2012 Philadelphia fest sponsored by Budweiser and organized/headlined by Jay-Z.
Directed by Ron Howard with his usual lack of personality, the film serviceably mixes performance footage and interviews with the performers, a wide range of hip-hop, soul, pop, and rock acts. That this diverse lineup speaks to the festival’s overarching celebration of the “American dream” and the “melting pot” is not lost on Howard, but the dictates of his project — especially to give ample screen time to the event’s bands, rappers and singers — hinders any investigation of such issues.
There are many sound bites about economic hardship, social justice, and cross-cultural harmony, but Made in America is first and foremost a showcase for Pearl Jam, Run DMC, The Hives, Janelle Monáe and other A-list music stars.
And even more than that, it’s a vanity project for Jay-Z, who whether opining at length about American industriousness and tolerance, or waxing nostalgic about his own rise from poverty (including a trip back to his old Brooklyn apartment), turns the film into a feature-length commercial for the Jay-Z® brand.