Music documentaries have a tendency to be bland and are rarely engaging subject matter. Sure there can be interesting, quirky, and funny stories, but nothing that grabs an audience and makes them feel for musician exposing their vulnerabilities. We see many drive Behind the Music style of documentaries that show old pictures and have many talking heads including laughter as well as tears. This isn’t the case with 20 Feet From Stardom, which chronicles the aging backup singers from countless very famous hits including “Sweet Home Alabama” and The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” among numerous others. This is a very personable documentary which one would enjoy. Compared to the heavy handed, activist mindsets in the documentary genre, consider this a crowd pleasing.
Synopsis: Millions know their voices, but no one knows their names. In his compelling new film 20 FEET FROM STARDOM, award-winning director Morgan Neville shines a spotlight on the untold true story of the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century. Triumphant and heartbreaking in equal measure, the film is both a tribute to the unsung voices who brought shape and style to popular music and a reflection on the conflicts, sacrifices and rewards of a career spent harmonizing with others. These gifted artists span a range of styles, genres and eras of popular music, but each has a uniquely fascinating and personal story to share of life spent in the shadows of superstardom. Along with rare archival footage and a peerless soundtrack, 20 FEET FROM STARDOM boasts intimate interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger and Sting to name just a few. However, these world-famous figures take a backseat to the diverse array of backup singers whose lives and stories take center stage in the film. (c) TWC-Radius
We follow the subject matters around. These women tell us how it was during an era where the industry was different as was American society. And do they tell it like it was…back in the day. Stories of humor and setback are included as these women retell their various accomplishments and setbacks. One story focusing on Merry Clayton was riveting especially as we hear her belt out a tune. Darlene Love tells her story and finds satisfaction finally being inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just a few years ago. Lisa Fischer discusses how a solo career wasn’t for her.
20 Feet From Stardom is one of the first releases from Radius TWC that did not go to VOD. That is too bad because as many people should see it as possible and that format provides consumers with such an opportunity to see it. VOD provides a benefit to people who live in smaller towns where this movie isn’t playing. Older audiences will love it. Coming off the heels of Searching For Sugarman these woman reflect on a career that was successful. They found fulfillment in providing the talent. Though they were technically overlooked, their legacy shines on.
Finally, I wanted to mention the likelihood of an Oscar nomination for 20 Feet From Stardom. I think it is a strong possibility to both woo the Academy and provide an satisfying alternative to the serious subject matter that can overwhelm the Best Documentary category. The box office performance has been strong considering a string of disappointments looking to breakout into mainstream success. Awards possibilities are a likelihood.