One of the best films I saw at Sundance this year was Morgan Neville‘s documentary Twenty Feet from Stardom. The film focuses on backup singers Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Claudia Lennear, Lisa Fischer, Tata Vega, and Judith Hill. They have worked with some of the biggest acts of all-time, and now these women finally get the spotlight in a feature that explores music history, race, and fame in an endearing and fascinating tale. The trailer shows all of that, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg for this must-see movie.
Hit the jump to check out the trailer and poster. Twenty Feet from Stardom opens June 14th.
This year, I was lucky enough to attend the Sundance Film Festival for the very first time. There are countless fests throughout the year, but Sundance has always been regarded as one of the best since most of the films screen there without any pre-buzz or context whatsoever. Audiences go in knowing next to nothing about the films they’re getting ready to watch, and 10 days later, buzz has materialized for previously unknown titles that just may become hits like Beasts of the Southern Wild, Little Miss Sunshine, or even Saw. Sundance has served as the launching pad for a number of filmmakers including Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, David O. Russell, and Steven Soderbergh, and it’s a joy to see what kind of fresh talent is on the horizon.
After a little recuperation from my time in Park City, I’ve written up a few thoughts on my impressions of the festival as a first-timer and my favorite films. Hit the jump to read on.
Several Sundance documentaries found a distribution deal this weekend:
- Radius-TWC picked up Twenty Feet from Stardom, a documentary about the back up singers to the world’s greatest industry legends. Read Matt’s review here.
- Sundance Selects acquired Dirty Wars, which “follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill on an unexpected journey as he chasesdown the truth behind America’s covert wars.”
- HBO Documentary Films made a deal for Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer, about the feminist band Pussy Riot, who was arrested after they performed a “punk prayer” inside Russia’s main cathedral.
- Gravitas Ventures picked up two documentaries. The Bitter Buddah centers on “comic’s comic” Eddie Pepitone and features original animation and interviews with admiring peers like Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, and Zach Galifianakis. Wild in the Streets chronicles Shrovetide Football, a truly unique 8-hour sports game that two small towns in England compete in each year. Gravitas also acquired Michael Urie‘s comedy He’s Way More Famous Than You, about a struggling actress who sets out to make a movie that will revitalize her career.
Hit the jump for the press releases with all the details.
The title “Twenty Feet from Stardom” implies a missed opportunity at being famous; to be so close and yet so far. But the business careers of backup singers are by far the least interesting aspect of Morgan Neville‘s documentary. Where Twenty Feet from Stardom shines is in using the perspective of backup singers to explore music history, race, collaboration, and performance. Backup singers Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, and Tata Vega share their bittersweet stories of how the business may have kept them down, but that there’s arguably more value in singing as part of a group. The claim never sounds disingenuous as their passion always rings loud and clear.