Simply the best. Better than all the rest. Better than anyone. OK, starting a review of a documentary about the great Tina Turner with those lines is probably far too on the nose.
but we’re sure you’d agree that it works. It works gang-busters in fact so we’re sticking to it for those eleven simple words are just enough to surmise our feelings for one of music’s greatest ever artists – not female artists. Artists. Period. There’s no-one close to the majesty and power of the girl from Nutbush, Tennessee local – the one who broke out, broke down, and broke out all over again.
Two hours isn’t enough time to succinctly break down and comb through decades of extraordinary work and the equally extraordinary life that Anna May Bullock has lived and endured but this fascinating and compelling new film gets as close to doing so as humanly possible. Her legacy is far-reaching and all-encompassing so for filmmakers, Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin to feature as much as they could certainly have taken all their might to achieve but dammit if they haven’t pulled it off with a compelling, thoughtful and adoring look back at Turner’s tumultuous life.
Beginning in her early years in the late 1950s as an up-and-coming singing sensation right through to her “chapter closing” moments on stage at the debut of Tina: The Musical in 2019, there’s so much to unpack here but every moment is covered with depth and delicacy, through the good times and horrific bad ones. In those earlier days, she was earmarked for success and discovered by Ike Turner and the two embarked on a musical journey (and marriage) that would change not just their lives but those of the many who listened, yet nestling below the surface was a dark, sinister underbelly that would only fully revealed decades later when Tina could take no more.
In 1981, she told of the mental, physical and emotional abuse by Ike which, while supposed to bring solace and catharsis to her life, only acted as a further weight to her already crippling heavy baggage, and her recollections of the day she left is harrowing and heartbreaking. But it spurred her on and, by the mid-80s, she was a star in her own right: it was her time, her story, her choice, and her name that would eventually see over 186,000 people see her in Rio de Janeiro. She took back her power, despite its immeasurable cost, and made her the icon she is today and this documentary celebrates both the success and the deep-seated fear that forged much of her early life and still does.
Through multiple talking heads with the journalists that told her story – namely Carl Arrington of People Magazine and autobiographer Kurt Loder – through managers, collaborators, and friends such as Oprah Winfrey, husband Erwin Bach, and Angela Bassett, who played her in the 1993 biopic, we get the whole story, warts and all. No shortcuts, no shying away, no gaps, just the story, and the truth. Tina the performer stands for many things, but the truth is uppermost and in this superb film, we get just that. And, of course, some absolute belters.
Documentary, Music, Biography | USA, 2021 | 15 | Berlin Film Festival | 27th March 2021 (UK, Sky Documentary) | Altitude Films | Dir. Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin | Tina Turner, Angela Bassett, Oprah Winfrey