Brand USA's 3-D documentary features musician Aloe Blacc

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Tom Garzilli, chief marketing officer of Brand USA, and musician Aloe Blacc at the preview of "America's Musical Journey."
Tom Garzilli, chief marketing officer of Brand USA, and musician Aloe Blacc at the preview of "America's Musical Journey." Photo Credit: Arnie Weissmann

NEW YORK -- "America's Musical Journey," Brand USA's second foray into giant screen, 3-D production, will debut Thursday at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, with additional theaters being added in the fall.

The film, narrated by Morgan Freeman, follows contemporary musician Aloe Blacc as he traces the development of American music, with a focus on Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley and Gloria and Emilio Estefan. Jon Batiste, Ramsey Lewis and Dr. John make musical cameos as well, but the binding thread is provided by the spirit of Armstrong.

At a preview in New York on Tuesday, Brand USA chief marketing officer Tom Garzilli said the previous 3-D IMAX film, "National Parks Adventure," was "a road trip, an adventure" to inspire people to come to the U.S. by putting lesser-known landscapes on display. The film was the highest-grossing documentary in 2016, he said.

The new film puts the spotlight on cities and cultures, with music employed as a storytelling device. A recurring theme is how American music formed out of the music immigrants brought with them. "The world helped bring us our music, and we want to share that back with the world," Garzilli said.

The relationship between Brand USA (the U.S.'s public-private destination marketing organization) and Blacc extends beyond the film, and includes concerts in Paris, Mexico City, Vancouver and London.

"My dad was a career Marine," Blacc said, "and every time I leave the country, he reminds me that I'm an ambassador for the U.S., representing what we stand for and who we are. Working with Brand USA is a continuation of that."

Expedia and Air Canada are listed as the film’s "presenting partners."

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