Duration: 1h 30m
City of a Million Dreams movie poster

“New Orleans people have a compulsive drive to do everything the opposite of everywhere else. Maybe dancing when someone dies is the most brilliant thing you can do.” – Deborah “Big Red” Cotton

The Somerville Theatre will present a special film screening of the documentary film, “City of a Million Dreams,” Tuesday, June 20 at 7:30 pm. After the screening there will be a live discussion by the distinguished author, journalist and filmmaker Jason Berry.

Famous the world over, jazz funerals have origins shrouded in mystery. Filmed over twenty-two years, “City of a Million Dreams” explores race relations at a tearing time in American society. Burial traditions train a lens on the unique and resilient culture of New Orleans. “City of a Million Dreams” draws from the 2018 book of the same title by Jason Berry.

Deb Cotton, an African American and observant Jew, leaves “hard-hearted Hollywood” for New Orleans, and becomes a chronicler of the parading clubs spawned by 19th century burial societies. Her zeal for the city grows as she becomes a blogger for Gambit Weekly, adopting the handle “Big Red Cotton.” As Deb explores her adopted culture, Dr. Michael White, a prolific clarinetist and New Orleans native, plays “the widow’s wail” on his clarinet, a cry of lamentation in the funeral marches.


City of a Million Dreams: A History of New Orleans at Year 300 (2018) was Jason Berry’s tenth book, and the basis for the companion documentary film he produced, “City of a Million Dreams – Parading for the Dead In New Orleans.”

Berry is a distinguished author and investigative journalist based in New Orleans. He has done extensive reporting on the crisis in the Catholic Church in many articles, an award-winning documentary, “Vows of Silence,” and three books. “Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church” received the Investigative Reporters and Editors 2011 Book Award. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Alicia Patterson foundations.