As we move forward in a generation of instant media and entertainment on demand, more and more available footage will readily be available to drive the documentary industry into a new level of insight. We saw moments of this in The Jynx mini-series in that serendipitous last moments where Robert Durst blurts out those iconic last lines seemingly incriminating himself after his long denials to Andrew Jarecki.
In Whitney, we see the emergence of this new-found opportunity to not only find room to celebrate the achievements of a pop-icon, but also become uniquely involved with the demons of her day-to-day existence that she was forced to endure. Kevin MacDonald does a fantastic job combing through the archives of the life of Whitney Houston, interviewing most of the relevant (some refused), and constructing a fascinating story of the human potential for bruising and abusing.
In particular, what MacDonald does right is:
(1) Refusing to glorify the career that Houston had behind a veil of thinly disguised narratives and iconic performances. Like Asif Kapadia’s Amy, we see in Whitney the essential cross-sectional observations of the toll that fame has on the functioning human capacity. These are not vain ideas, this goes to the very heart of man’s purpose and the fracturing of a design intended to withstand a certain measure of flexibility until reaching its point of irreparability. Fans need to see this and understand the realty of our collective worship of an industry that makes slaves of talents.
(2) Placing Whitney Houston in the immediate context of her environment and seeing the impact that she carried as an Africa-American icon. The juxtaposition of her life and the outside world foreshadowed the eventual breakdown in her own personal life as an apt personification with the outside struggles that she was mending as a public figure.
(3) The controversial reveal in Whitney (spoiler here) is perhaps the most impressive footage that harks to the ideas of future filmmaking. Without abusing the moment, MacDonald finely weaves this tragic revelation into an already impressive creation that adds only layers to our own understanding of a troubled individual whose life was tragically stolen away by the people she entrusted to keep her whole.
GRACE JONES: BLOODLIGHT & BAMI
If there’s going to be a documentary that only fanatical fans will stand to endure, it’s this one. Prolonged idle chatter, Jones throwing hissy fits, and concert footage readily available on YouTube — Bloodlight & Bami is a special features documentary that should be made freely available because Sophie Fiennes put not real effort into creating something worth paying for. A complete waste of time about a person hiding a boring persona with ostentatious regalia.