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Billie

1h 38m Documentary, Musical 2020

What if the most important story in your life was not your own? Billie Holiday, one of the greatest voices of all time, was always controversial — a proud black woman who preferred white audiences, an exploited artist and a violent drug addict, a loyal friend and a vindictive lover, a blues singer who didn’t sing the blues, and when she sang the seminal protest song Strange Fruit, an enemy of the state. Her enigmatic accounts of her own life were a mix of half truths and free-form improvisations. Then, in 1971, journalist Linda Lipnack Kuehl set out to write the definitive biography of Billie. Over 8 years, she tracked down and tape-recorded over 200 hours of interviews with the extraordinary characters that populated the iconic singer’s short, tumultuous life.

What the critics say….

“In “Billie,” (James) Erskine adroitly paints an unvarnished portrait of a generational talent, the ethics and politics of the generation she entertained….interviews, with many figures like Charles Mingus and Count Basie, who have long-since departed, retell the era in exciting detail. Erskine’s “Billie” is an honest memorial to the rich talent, and the arresting traumas that made the voice of a generation” - Robert Daniels, Roger Ebert

“James Erskine’s haunting and thorny documentary tells two stories. One is about Billie Holiday, the influential jazz vocalist who struggled with drug addiction and racism before dying at age 44. The other is about Linda Lipnack Kuehl, a journalist who spent the better part of a decade gathering interviews for a Holiday biography, left unfinished when she herself died in 1978 under mysterious circumstances….this is one of the most detailed portraits of Holiday ever put on film” - Noel Murray, Los Angeles Times

“On 6 February 1978, journalist Linda Lipnack Kuehl fell from the balcony of a Washington DC hotel. Her death was ruled as a suicide. Her family, however, believed otherwise. Kuehl had dedicated the last eight years of her life to a biography of jazz singer Billie Holiday….She spoke to Holiday’s friends, had even grown close to some of her interview subjects, including Holiday’s former bandleader Count Basie. At one point, she began to receive strange, threatening calls. Did someone consider the pair’s intimacy a threat? Did Kuehl jump, or was she pushed? It’s an incendiary piece of prologue for James Erskine’s thorough, informative documentary, simply titled Billie” - Clarisse Loughrey, The Independent

Director

James Erskine

Language

English

Closed Captions [CC]

English [cc]

Country

UK

Studio

Spirit

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