This article was written by Kiara Marques, a student at Fordham University and a self-proclaimed concert junkie, under the supervision of Jamie Alberici and Kayla Coughlan of Cyber PR.
20 Feet from Stardom
Starring Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, and many others, 20 Feet from Stardom is a documentary about backup singers and the legendary vocalists they support. The film delves into the experiences of these singers, which is often noted as behind-the-scenes, even though their work is a vital contribution to the success of some of the biggest names in music. It is a tribute to the hard work, talent, and passion that goes into being a backup singer, and has received universal acclaim, winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2014.
Whitney is a documentary film about the life of American superstar Whitney Houston. In addition to highlighting the successes of one of the greatest vocalists in American history, it also takes a dive into her personal life, struggles, and issues. The film takes a look into the most human aspects of her life, the trials and tribulations she faced growing up and throughout her career, and brings to light another side of the reality faced by many of the glamorous artists in the music industry. The film received numerous nominations for different awards, winning Best Documentary Feature Film at the Edinburgh Film Festival.
Amy is a documentary film about the life and death of British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse. Built on many rare home videos and interviews with the people in her inner circle, this film goes behind the scenes to tell the tale of the powerhouse artist and how her background and fame contributed to her unfortunate substance addiction and subsequent death. Amy does not portray Winehouse in a negative light, however. It strips away the tabloid-style “trainwreck” narrative that is no stranger to many who have faced similar situations, but instead seeks to show viewers who Amy Winehouse really was: an inspiring human and musical genius. The documentary received thirty film awards including a Grammy for Best Music Film and an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, as well as winning Winehouse a posthumous nomination for "British Female Solo Artist” at the 2016 BRIT Awards for its soundtrack.
Dreamgirls, starring Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, and Anika Noni Rose, is a musical drama film inspired by the history of the Motown record label and The Supremes, one of its most notable acts. The story is told through the eyes of a Detroit girl group, The Dreams, and is centered around the history of R&B music in the 1960s and 70s. Though it is a work of fiction, the film tells of a small black record label whose star group takes America by storm, which mirrors The Supremes’ legacy of changing American music forever. Dreamgirls is a hit film, having won many accolades such as three Golden Globes and two Academy Awards.
Homecoming is a concert film written, directed, and produced by Beyoncé about her 2018 headlining performance at Coachella. The film is an in-depth look into the performance, taking in the creative prowess and the cultural impact behind its execution. It combines footage of her performances from the two weekends at the festival as well as the months of rehearsal leading up to it. Throughout Homecoming, Beyoncé acknowledges the whiteness of Coachella, pointing out how she was the first black female singer to headline since its inception in 1999. Her iconic performances are a celebration of blackness, with an all black orchestra and dancers, which sends an empowering message to young black creatives and artists everywhere. Another focal point of the documentary was Beyoncé’s candidness about her difficult pregnancy the year before, and her struggle to get back into shape to deliver the high-intensity performance that fans expect. Winning numerous accolades, Homecoming truly delivers the raw talent and creative genius Beyoncé devotes to her craft.
What Happened, Miss Simone?
What Happened, Miss Simone? is a biographical documentary about Nina Simone and her rise as a singer and activist. Showing never-before-seen performances and recordings, this film sheds a light on her incredible talent, as well as her strength and passion for social justice. Complete with archival footage and interviews of her daughter, executive producer Lisa Simone Kelly, and other friends, What Happened, Miss Simone? is an intimate and important look into the life and power of Nina Simone.
Janis: Little Girl Blue
Janis: Little Girl Blue is a documentary about the life of Janis Joplin, one of the most influential Rock and Roll singers of all time. Using never before seen footage, interviews, and personal letters, Joplin’s story is told, showing the world much more than the life of a troubled artist. The film honors Joplin for who she truly was, an ambitious, funny, smart, and truly talented individual whose iconic legacy should reflect these qualities.
Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated
Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated is a documentary about the life and career of singer, songwriter, and actress Demi Lovato. It is a very raw and honest look into the obstacles that Lovato has gone through as a person, artist, and performer who grew up in the entertainment industry. She discusses her early career beginnings as a child star on Disney Channel and her many personal struggles with family relationships, bipolar disorder, bulimia, and addiction. The film comprises interviews with Lovato, her family, and industry professionals who have worked with her over the years. The world knows Demi Lovato and her talent, but with this film, we see the very honest and unedited version of the superstar
Amazing Grace is a 2018 concert film featuring soul legend Aretha Franklin, and her live recording of her 1972 album of the same name at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California. Originally set to be released in 1972, the film encountered many issues syncing the audio recordings to the live footage and was not picked up again until 2007, with Franklin’s family allowing its release in 2018. The film has been described as transcendent, with Franklin truly in her element delivering a powerful performance. The live album has received enormous critical acclaim, winning a 1973 Grammy award for Best Soul Gospel Performance, and to this date being the highest-selling live gospel music album of all time. The film also received massive success, having been nominated for many awards and winning the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Documentary in 2019.
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