20 Feet from Stardom16 Mar 2015
If a white man toured with the Rolling Stones, non-stop, since 1982, more than half the tenure of the band in total - would he not be considered a member of the band? I’m hard pressed to think of a case when that wouldn’t be true. But Lisa Fischer, a black woman, described as ego-free or “not having that kind of ambition” is never given that same treatment. There are a lot of gender and race politics going on in this film, but unfortunately I don’t think the film-makers quite have a grasp on what to say about them.
It’s one thing to point out a clear and present gender disparity (which they have). It’s a whole another thing to say something meaningful about it (which they don’t quite accomplish).
Despite that glaring failure, this film has some of the best documentary sequences, direct-to-camera interviews and live performance footage of truly sublime singing. I don’t think it should’ve taken the academy away from The Act of Killing or maybe even overshadowed Stories We Tell in its cohort, but that’s not to say the film doesn’t deserve some accolades. The topic is great. The characters are great. I wish some more able filmmakers had given it an attempt.
Apropos - I happened to listen to this podcast the same night I saw this film. Fortuitous because I loved learning about Lisa Fischer – http://www.wnyc.org/story/lisa-fischer-death-sex-money/