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DVD: Grateful Dawg (2002)
Review Rating:   Excellent  
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Columbia Tri-Star 
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1 (NTSC)

February 5, 2002



Genre: Concert / Documentary  
A personal documentary of musical friendship between legendary guitarists Jerry Garcia and David Grisman.  



Directed by:

Gillian Grisman
Screenplay by: none credited
Music by: various
Produced by: Gillian Grisman

David Grisman,  Jerry Garcia,  Joe Craven,  Jim Kerwin,  Vassar Clements,  Bob Bleetstein,  Dave Dennison,  Bela Fleck,  Deborah Koons Garcia,  Monroe Grisman,  Pamela Grisman,  Sam Grisman,  Justin Kreutzmann,  Dexter Johnson,  Rochard Loren,  Craig Miller,  Steve Parish,  Peter Rowan,  Lawrence Waltman

Film Length: 81 mins
Process/Ratio: 1.66 :1
Anamorphic DVD: No
Languages:   English (Dolby 5.1) / English,  French,  Spanish Subtitles
Special Features :  

Audio Commentary by Director Gillian Grisman and Guitarist David Grisman / Musician Discographies / Outtakes: "For the Music" (:22), "Why Children's Music?" (:41), "Pancho The Singing Parrot" (:52), "Seal Boy" (:57), "Jerry Who?" (3:54), "Davy Asks 'Do You Remember?'" (:47), "Twenty Years Later: Still Seeking Entertainment" (1:53)

Comments :

"This film is about family ties, and about Friendship."

These are the keys to understanding and enjoying a thoroughly affectionate examination, historical portrait and ultimate tribute to the longtime friendship between two of America's legendary guitarists, David Grisman, and Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia.

Exceptionally directed by Grisman's daughter, the project humorously began with her father telling her to do something with the boxes of Hi8 videos in the basement. Rather than slap together a hasty cash-in video for fans, Gillian Grisman chose to reveal the duo's unique mixture of bluegrass, folk, jazz, and rock through friends, family, veteran and 'new blood' interviews, and avoid a glossy tv style by keeping the focus on the positive and the personal. Her father also decreed that the project should be about the music, and all songs must be heard in their complete form, so viewers can truly understand what Grisman, Garcia, bassist Jim Kerwin, and percussionist/violinist Joe Craven were trying to accomplish. The result are traditional documentary approaches which appear between the songs, or fade in and out during modest solos (and not over important vocals).

Columbia TriStar's DVD presents the film in Dolby 5.1, and uses a mix which preserves the warm, close-miked analogue sound Grisman and his label (Acoustic Disc) use. The video-to-film conversion for the feature's release is surprisingly clean, and the archival Hi8 footage is quite watchable, given that some moments are classic home movie material. (One DVD outtake - an extended interview with Vassar Clements - is from a sharp video master, and shows how well quality was maintained, as Grisman's elements were bounced from video to film to DVD.)

The director's commentary, along with snippets from her father, is a bit sporadic, but it's a unique perspective from an articulate and focused filmmaker with a direct but unclouded familial link to her subjects.

The extras also include two uninterrupted songs from a 1991 live performance from the Warfield Theater, 7 very short outtakes, the video "The Thrill Is Gone," Grisman and Garcia discographies, and weblinks in a DVD-ROM supplement. Though the DVD case lists "Director's Production Notes," the feature appears to have been dropped from the final version.


© 2002 Mark R. Hasan

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