City of a Million Dreams: Parading for the Dead in New Orleans
Simonette is working with her father, writer Jason Berry, and their partner Timothy Watson on co-writing and co-producing this epic narrative on the history of jazz funerals in New Orleans:
Why do we dance for the dead? To most people jazz funerals are a mystery. In 2005, writer and videographer Deb Cotton leaves “hard-hearted Hollywood” for New Orleans, and becomes a chronicler of the parading club culture spawned by the legacy of funerals with music. This tradition is carried by the prolific clarinetist Michael White, renowned for playing “the widow’s wail” in sorrowful dirges. When Hurricane Katrina hits, White loses everything in the catastrophic flooding. In his struggle to rebuild, White becomes an everyman, embodying the resurrection spirit of jazz funerals. As Cotton follows the parading culture through the aching recovery, while White explores his ancestral roots in the dawn of jazz. The danced-memory of enslaved Africans charges a reimagining of antebellum Congo Square, juxtaposed with the grandeur of European marching bands. With burial pageants as a mirror on the city’s history, the film hits a violent turning point at a parade shooting, plunging Deb Cotton and Michael White into a search for the city’s soul.
Simonette's work is also featured in the anthology New Orleans, What Can't Be Lost, edited by Lee Barclay and published by UL Press. Find a link to the book's webpage and an excerpt from her essay about New Orleans facades here: http://ulpress.org/catalog.php?item=2.
Simonette wrote for Louisiana Homes and Gardens Magazine and Our Louisiana Magazine from 2006-2012, covering art, design, cuisine, travel, music, and local culture, and has also contributed to Where Magazine, Gambit, and Traterra.com.