Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool

Filmmaker: Stanley Nelson

Runtime: 115 minutes

Using words from Miles Davis’s autobiography, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool offers an incisive insight into our understanding of the legendary musician. Newly released archival material, alongside interviews with pre-eminent historians and personal friends like Quincy Jones, illustrate a man of intensity and devotion to his craft. Despite the indignities of America during the time of segregation, nothing was going to stop Davis from realizing his dream: to create a new form of musical expression. Davis worked like a physicist with his collaborators to push musical experimentation and widen the tones and lyricism of jazz—the effects of which are felt to this day. As the film delves into his past loves, personal relationships, and addictions, a clearer portrait of Davis the man emerges. Davis is fearless and engaging throughout, and his intellectual fervor is only tempered by his insecurities. Director Stanley Nelson’s epic biopic collects the strands of a creative life and weaves them together for us to understand one of the great modern American artists like never before.

About the Filmmaker

Stanley Nelson is the foremost chroniclers of the African American experience working in nonfiction film today. His films, many of which have aired on PBS, combine compelling narratives with rich and deeply researched historical detail, shining new light on both familiar and under-explored aspects of the American past. Mr. Nelson’s film, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2016), is the first comprehensive feature length historical documentary portrait of that iconic organization, as well as an extremely timely look at an earlier phase of black activism around police violence in African American communities. The film won the 2016 NAACP Image Award.