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KPCW sends its most discerning moviegoers to the movies each week to let you know which films are worth going to and which are a pass. The Friday Film Review airs at 7:20 a.m., during the Noon News and in The Local View. KPCW Friday Film Reviewers are: Barb Bretz, Rick Brough, Mark Harrington and Linda Jager.

Friday Film Review | 'American Symphony'

The documentary film “American Symphony” is a portrait of singer, musician and composer Jon Batiste as he writes his first symphony for Carnegie Hall, while his wife, author Suleika Jaouad, fights for her life.

Jon Batiste launched with Stephen Colbert’s Late Show in 2015 as the show’s musical director and for seven years jammed his way into America’s living rooms. Born and raised in New Orleans, Batiste’s music is as multi-faceted as his hometown. Colbert may be credited for introducing Batiste to the world of late night, but his talents far exceeded fronting the band on the talk show.

In 2022, Batiste left the program after winning five Grammys, including the coveted album of the year, beating Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish. Batiste’s triumphant rise to music royalty is captured in the Netflix documentary “American Symphony,” directed by Matthew Heineman and produced by Lauren Domino. Michelle and Barack Obama’s production company Higher Ground executive produced the film.

“American Symphony” was initially conceived by Batiste and Heineman as a behind-the-scenes look at Batiste’s process as he composes a multi-genre symphony for Carnegie Hall. But life happened, and the film became a gripping and beautifully artistic portrait of Batiste and his wife Suleika Jaouad as she discovers her leukemia has returned and undergoes lifesaving treatments at Sloan Kettering in New York City.

Jaouad received her first diagnosis at age 22, and from 2012 to 2015, she wrote in The New York Times about her experiences. She went on to write the best-selling memoir, “Between Two Kingdoms.”

The film is a look at what happens when the highest of highs and the lowest of lows converge and how two artists, deeply in love (Jaouad is also a painter) navigate them both. There’s a COVID-19 pandemic, an ad-hoc wedding, and a heartbroken Batiste, who continues to show up for his artistic calling as Jaouad fights for her life. She is truly remarkable, and the film reveals her biggest fears, hopes, and dreams, as she’s forced back into cancer treatment.

There’s also a nail-biter scene towards the end when Carnegie Hall fills up with people dressed in black ties and ball gowns to watch the premiere of “American Symphony” and the power goes out. And just like that, Batiste pivots and leads with his heart to play a melody out of the air with footage of the couple’s life together.

I was brought to tears and my feet as Batiste’s music moved me through a cascade of emotions and Jaouad’s strength and artistry inspired me to be even more grateful for this beautiful life.

“American Symphony” streams on Netflix. It’s rated PG-13.