Morgan Neville: Twenty Feet from Stardom

This Oscar-nominated documentary is very entertaining because of its interesting characters, who are full of life and memories about their lives as back-up singers – and about their attempt to get to the foreground as lead singers. People like Sting and Bruce Springfield talk well and supporting about the unique voices they have used to help them perform, there are great archive with the two and the singers and with Ray Charles, as well as interviews with Stevie Wonder and Mick Jagger, fine anecdotes, yes for sure an entertaining film, which is also about the tough commercial music industry fighting each other, and about the roots in the gospel music.

And then – surprise, surprise – comes the critic’s BUT the film is not so well put together, it feels a bit messy in structure, and too long, maybe because, with all respect, the women are not all sooo interesting, but they get equal film time. Here they are: Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Claudia Lennear, Táta Vega, the Waters. The photo shows three more: Jo Lawry, Judith Hill and Lisa Fischer. Especially the latter shows her extraordinary talent in the film. She came to the forefront, got awards, released record(s) but did not make it further.

And we would have loved more music, would we not… here enters the question of rights and money to buy clips.

Anyway, I was humming on my way back to the hotel after the late night screening at ZagrebDox, cinema 5, full house.

USA, 2013, 90 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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