-Recognize this tune|voice…?
“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” said Maya Angelou. Could that be the case of the political M.I.A., the daring Amy, the fighter Nina, the pioneer Joan, the bold Madonna, the romantic Whitney, the childlike Janis, the activist Patti, the fearless Sharon and the sassy Grace?
A number of cognitive relations pop in our heads at the sound of a familiar song: a face, a phrase, a sound, a moment, a story. The biographical documentaries of Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. (Steve Loveridge 2018), Whitney (Kevin Macdonald 2018), Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami (Sophie Fiennes 2017), Miss Sharon Jones! (Barbara Kopple 2015), AMY (Asif Kapadia 2015), Janis: Little Girl Blue (Amy Berg 2015), What Happened, Miss Simone? (Liz Garbus 2015), Bad Reputation (Kevin Kerslake 2018) about Joan Jett, Patti Smith: Dream of Life (Steven Sebring 2008) and Madonna: Truth or Dare (Alek Keshishian 1991) have been gaining awards by successfully parading in international film festivals for years.
The influence of their music, lyrics (that -being in English- helped them form an immediate communication with an international audience) and inspirational personalities as female idols formulate an exploding combination when put together into a filmic audiovisual narration. Unseen footage, unknown personal stories and unquestionably candid moments uncover the shaded parts of these personalities lives, facts that we forget to consider when admiring their work. Although, do we ever think of them as daughters, girlfriends, moms, lovers, housewives, victims, defiants, patients, feminists, activists and a number of other things that may characterize us too? When shedding light on that side of their existence the above factors usually come as a surprise. As fans we are used to love stars for their exceptional talent as we unintentionally disregard all of the rest. What these women have in common, apart from their outstanding voices, are their strong female stories. Don’t we all wish to have some story to tell at one point of our life course, famous or not? I guess we do.
Emotional, moving, revolutionary, epic, spectacular and revealing documentaries about women nominees and winners of both Emmy and Grammy awards. Their complexity and particularity vary due to era, idiosyncrasy, cultural background, political views and social experiences. Women of fame conducting their lives, bound to arrange their happiness around everyday struggles, as we all do. Why are they so interesting and what is it that makes us so eager to deconstruct the myth of the person by dissolving the mystery behind the persona? Does it have to do with our emotional connection to a moment in our life and their art? Or maybe the consolidating fact that after all they are wonderfully simple fascinating women? Or rather the way we may fantasize about being iconic ourselves and how that would feel like? In the tip of our fingers; there lies the material for anyone in the mood to dig in and wonder about it.
Having to fight with personal issues, such as health, motherhood, love, ageing and addictions while also dealing with the public’s and the music industry’s criticism, relevance, sexism, ageism and racism there is just as much as we may perceive. Who considers these issues when talking about these women and their likes? The objective look of these documentaries re-construct and complete their story-puzzle by also allowing us to add our own input of empathy. This is the diverse experience documentary biopics offer; there is no fixed idea on how we appreciate people as it differs from each and everyone’s way of being introduced to them. So how can we connect and identify with them and to what extend? What is the goal of those docs? All in all, this is a sample of an offstage sneak peek to the marvelous “handbook” of female voices and voices of women presented in the context of an unstaged verity, managing to take us on a chronological journey by penetrating through success to casual days and inner battles.
Let’s celebrate them.
* You can get your tickets for Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. (Steve Loveridge 2018) and Joan Jett, Bad Reputation (Kevin Kerslake 2018) for this year’s IN-EDIT edition by clicking on the links. Also, for the films made by women Peret, Yo Soy La Rumba (Paloma Zapata 2018), I Used to Be Normal: a Boyband Fangirls Story (Jessica Lesky 2018) and Punk in Paradiso (Monica Kugel 1978).