18/19 Film Schedule
Leave No Trace – 8th October
Monday 8th October, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. PG, 108 mins. 2018.
Directed by: Debra Granik
Based on: My Abandonment by Peter Rock
Starring: Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie
Whitney – 10th September 2018
Monday 10th September, ODEON Cinema. Start time: 8:00 p.m.
Cert. 15, 122 mins. 2018.
Directed by: Kevin Macdonald
Starring: Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Bobbi Kristina Brown
‘A deeply sensitive portrait of a troubled singer’ – BFI
‘Deeply moving, truly tragic’ – Flickfilosopher.com
John Macdonald, the director of tonight’s film, already has a number of music-based documentaries under his belt but he’s also made other genre-defying titles such as Touching The Void (2003) which detailed a disastrous climbing expedition in the Andes and four years previous to that, One Day in September, about the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics. Macdonald is arguably the man, who in this country at least, enabled the documentary to be seen as a viable genre for regular display on the cinema screen in recent times. His thorough research for One Day in September matched with brilliant editing and visual flair won him the Oscar for Best Documentary in 1999.
He also directed the film The Last King of Scotland which starred James McAvoy and Forest Whitaker who won the Best Actor Oscar for his role as Idi Amin.
Macdonald was apparently initially reluctant when approached by one of the producers of Whitney, amongst them a man named Simon Chinn, who was also a producer of Man on Wire, the film club’s first ever presentation 10 years ago. Once persuaded he soon found that Whitney’s family and friends were still very much bewildered by her death and that they believed her talent and life was being remembered for all of the wrong reasons.
He admits that he was never a fan but that’s what partially made it an interesting project for him to pursue. It was when he spoke to her former agent of 30 years, Nicole David, the original voice of Velma in the Scooby-Doo cartoons, who said that Houston had been her favourite client in all that time but she had never understood her that Macdonald’s curiosity was finally piqued.
Macdonald demanded the final cut ie. He would be allowed to edit and present the film as he wished. His first music documentary about Mick Jagger in 2001 ended up with Jagger taking editorial control himself and releasing something Macdonald hated.
In making Whitney, Macdonald ‘didn’t appreciate that a true portrait of such a big star would prove so slippery’. “People were not being fully truthful” he said in an interview, “I’ve never encountered so many people who gave me just a superficial PR [Public Relations] perspective on things.”
“I think a lot of people felt guilty – very few people were honest enough to say that. And actually, I’ve never known a bunch of interviewees more in denial.” His investigative instincts paid off however making discoveries with further, and honest, interviews right up until the film’s premiere in Cannes in May. “They [The family] were sensible enough to realize that was the way to help her,” said Macdonald, “There were a lot of family secrets, and if you don’t talk about them they don’t go away. Bringing it out into the open was restorative to them and her reputation.”
Just over one third of the audience returned and filled in a returned a Feedback form. All the scores were from 3 to 5 with about equal numbers for all rankings. In all the score rankings (predominantly in the 3s) there were comments that the documentary was too long, “A tragic story – bit too long”, “Too long – needs editing” and “I found the film disjointed and too long” are typical criticisms regarding its length.
There was a common thread regarding the depicted circumstances of Whitney Houston’s life, “sad”, “v. sad” “…rather harrowing” and “I am left feeling very sad. So much talent. What a rotten life” are some of the views expressed by these and many other respondents.
As a documentary film the work itself came in for much praise. Comments such as “insightful”, “A well documented film… An honest relay of life in the limelight” and “Fantastic! Excellent film in documentary style – tragic and wonderful in equal measure” illustrate the experience many had watching it. Indeed, the Director’s achievement in what they created and put on screen in this documentary is encapsulated in the feedback from one respondent (who scored it with a 3) and then commented, “Better than I expected + glad you made me see it for I would not have chosen it from a list. A sad tale”.