Dallas International Film Festival 2016
Greetings again from the darkness. Being described as “the female James Brown” is a double-edged sword. On one side, the talent and stage presence must be obvious. On the other side, the burden of expectations that can never be eclipsed is always present. Soul/Funk/R&B singer Sharon Jones doesn’t much care about any of that … and in this documentary we witness both her strength in life and her powerhouse performances on stage.
Filmmaker Barbara Kopple is a two time Oscar winner (Harlan County USA, 1976 and American Dream, 1990) and here she presents not so much a music or concert documentary, as an intimate look at how a person can be inspired and driven by music to fight through life’s challenges – and even cancer. In 2013, Miss Jones was diagnosed and much of the film follows her through head-shaving, chemotherapy and the battle to regain her voice and strength.
Born in North Augusta, South Carolina, Sharon was raised in Brooklyn. Her background was anything but privileged, and as an adult she spent years working as a Corrections Officer at Rikers Island, while continuing to sing in her spare time. A record producer once told her she was ‘too black, too fat, too short’ to make it, but she just kept singing … releasing her first album at age 40.
Sharon’s spirit and energy are the core of the story here as even after her cancer diagnosis, she carried the pressure of needing to get back to singing and performing so that her band members in The Dap-Kings could earn a living and feed their families.
Her NYC comeback is impressive and life-affirming, but the highlights are clips of her earlier stage performances … and the most incredible in-church performance you are likely to ever witness. In 2014, she won her first Grammy for “Give the People What They Want”, and Ms. Kopple’s film shines a spotlight on an incredible talent and spirited lady who deserves much more than to have a cult following and be “underappreciated”. Perhaps the film will open some eyes, ears and hearts.
watch the trailer: