Whitney Houston was an iconic force of nature in the music industry and her contributions to the world will live on in many ways. Naturally, everyone wants a piece of her story.
However, the outspoken firecracker of a woman should have her own say, according the directors of the documentary Whitney: Can I Be Me premiering at this year's Tribeca Film Festival in New York.
Co-directed by veteran documentarians Nick Broomfield (Kurt & Courtney) and Rudi Dolezal (Freddie Mercury, The Untold Story), the film highlights her talent and tragic spiral, including concert footage of Houston with intimate private videos of the singer and testimonials from those who knew her.
Produced by Showtime Documentary Films, Whitney: Can I Be Me is less of a larger-than-life portrait and more of an intimate look into the many aspects that shaped her: including her mother Cissy Houston and music mogul Clive Davis.
“There’s been a lot of stuff done on Whitney, but if you look at them, they’re pretty much the same story,” Broomfield told Entertainment Weekly. “But I became more obsessed with the fact that she was this incredible crossover artist. Clive Davis’ genius was to market her to white teenage girls, and she eventually paved the way for Beyoncé. But that took its toll, and she paid this price for it.”
The film reportedly dives into Houston's relationship with her friend Robyn Crawford, which was the topic of innuendo-based rumors and talks that troubles in that relationship were the beginning of Houston's undoing.
Rudi Dolezal was friends with Houston and recorded more than 500 hours of footage of the singer both onstage, as well as in private moments during her 1999 world tour. Dolezal had planned to release a concert film that was later shelved after he asked Houston to address the rumors of drug addiction on camera, which she did not want to do.
“I love the intimacy of Rudi’s footage,” Broomfield said. “He shot with a teeny little camcorder, but it doesn’t matter the quality. When you see Whitney Houston after having sung ‘I Will Always Love You,’ coming off that stage, you suddenly realize there’s tears streaming down her face. And she’s looking into that camera. There’s an emotion on her face that I almost can’t believe.”
“We shot some stuff with me in it,” Broomfield went on to say, “but the film only started working when it was a very intimate portrait of Whitney. My voice became irrelevant. We would ask ourselves, ‘What does Whitney feel in this particular scene? How is this affecting her? Where is her head at? What is she going through?’ And the more we answered that and told the story subjectively through her, the stronger and more moving it became. We wanted to tell Whitney’s story from Whitney herself.”
Whitney: Can I Be Me premieres on April 26 at the SVA Theater in New York City and will make its broadcast premiere on Showtime in August.