Michka Saäl

A Great Day in Paris

2017, documentary, 76 minutes, English and French

Credits        Reviews        Screenings Backstory



Within the jazz milieu of Paris, a story of music and friendship that revolves around questions of artistic exile, and begins and ends with a photograph.




Written, directed and produced by Michka Saäl


Image: Sylvestre Guidi, Rénald Bellemare, Joseph Guérin

Sound recording: Guillaume Sciama

Sound design and mix: Thierry Delor

Editor: Xi Feng


Produced with assistance from Embryo Productions (Quebec), French Cuisine (France), and 24 Images (France).


With: Ricky Ford, John Betsch, Sangoma Everett, Bobby Few, Kirk Lightsey, Steve Potts and 70 other jazz musicians.




“All the threads that connect her work are here — everything that makes her reflect, write, struggle to make her films: the relationship between art and freedom, the conflicted feelings towards one’s roots, the pain and rewards of displacement, the importance of creating to survive.” 

Véronique Dassass, Liberté, February 15, 2018

Bobby Few

Bobby Few

“Bobby Few, a gifted pianist, Sangoma Everett, an extraordinary drummer, and other great jazzmen like Ricky Ford, John Betsch and Kirk Lightsey play in the film, and share their unique stories…. This is a documentary on the musicians, but what we’re left with is more the human warmth… it evokes strong emotions — from touching reunions to the music itself… Grade: 8/10.”

Denis Lambert, Le Petit Septième, February 21, 2018

CLICK Link here (French only)

We leave the film with our hearts a little lighter and a smile on the lips.”

Pierre Murat, Télérama, May 20, 2017

Click lINK HERE (French only)

"Intimate testimonials, strong bonds of friendship, emotion and history."

Jazz Culture, France Musique, May 6, 2017

click lINK HERE (french only)




Manchester International Film Festival, England

Festi-Jazz International, Rimouski, Québec


BronzeLens Film Festival, Atlanta, Georgia 

MIMO 15, Amarante, Portugal

DOC-Cévennes, Lasalle, France

Lac in Blue Festival, Annecy, France

Rendez-vous Québec Cinéma, Montréal, Québec

Jazz Day, Fouras, France


Cry from the Port, Marseille, France

Cinéma Saint André des Arts, Paris, France



Phiippe Lévy-Stab (photographer), Ricky Ford and Michka Saäl,

Phiippe Lévy-Stab (photographer), Ricky Ford and Michka Saäl,


It began as an idea by the saxophonist Ricky Ford to gather the community of expatriate American jazz musicians in France for a photograph in 2008 — a 50th anniversary homage to one of the most iconic photos in the history of jazz: Art Kane’s “Harlem 1958.” As an old friend of Ricky and a jazz aficionado, I agreed to help him organize the event. Soon after, I decided to make a film, which brought together about 70 musicians on the steps of Montmartre. I complemented footage of the “event” with interviews, as well as footage of concerts and performances. Together, these elements paint a portrait of artistic exile, a fusion of genres and freedom as the bottom line for art.

Michka Saäl, 2017

Ricky Ford

Ricky Ford

Baking up a storm of continuity

Like any musician, Ricky Ford can be sensitive and a little anxious before a show, especially one being filmed. I had no idea at first, but I discovered his way to control his stress of the concert, and all the logistical problems that arise, was to pay attention to his appearance.

Over the course of a single day of shooting, he changed wardobe three times, and in spectacular fashion. From a massive and immaculate white djellabah (we were in Bourgogne on market day) to a sort of gentleman savoyard with velvet pants and a sweater woven in a jacquard pattern to an African tunic sprinkled with violet spirals on a foundation that was the shade of a green apple.

The morning of his solo concert of Sufi music at the Toucy church (that dates to the Middle Ages), he pushed open the door of the local bakery, one of the stops on his tour through the village that we had already started to film earlier. I’m not sure if the baker could read my mind or if she was completely natural, but she greeted him with a joyous : But you have changed again ! which became an eloquent way for me to pretend the lack of continuity was planned. During editing of the film, which took place over almost eight years, Ricky Ford’s hair passed from Afro cool to a shaven head to bountiful curls. In the editing room, we decided spontaneously not to address the continuity issues brought on by Ricky’s evolving hairstyles, counting instead on the music to win over any sceptics.

Michka Saäl, 2017

So Michka

Another otherworldly experience with a larger-than-life character :  Ricky Ford, a genius on the saxophone and close friend of Michka. After a fabulous shoot in Montmartre, we left with Ricky to Toucy in Bourgogne. November 2008. My son Arnaud was approaching his 20th birthday. I remember telling Michka I was sad to miss this special occasion. She said, « Well, okay, let’s bring him with us. » That’s how we ended up at Ricky’s, surrounded by his family, for my son’s 20th birthday dinner. That was so Michka.

Sylvestre Guidi, Director of photography