The perception of the broken down, drug addict that Whitney became by the end of her forties, simply does not do her life or legacy justice. For true Houston fans, this documentary will right many a wrong in the defamation of her character.
Fact. Whitney Houston was a long-term drug addict and by her own admission, was her own biggest problem when it came to the drug and alcohol consumption. Like all good documentaries, Whitney presents a balanced view and it becomes clear that Bobby Brown was not solely responsible for her hopeless descent and though not a positive influence in her life, Whitney needed to take responsibility for her own choices and actions.
Fact. Despite the media and public opinion blaming Bobby Brown for corrupting the squeaky-clean pop princess, Whitney grew up in a family environment where drugs were easily accessible and became an everyday part of her life from early on. Members of her own family therefore have crosses to bear.
I didn't know this and before this documentary, I knew very little about Whitney's early life and her rise to fame. The documentary is revealing with never-before-seen backstage footage of her final successful world tour in 1999 but the interview excerpts taken from her public life also reinforce that she was a deeply private person. The world and her fanbase had no idea the depths of her own personal sadness, struggles and demons, which all impacted on what was inevitably her own self-destruction.
Director Nick Broomfield and iconic music video director Rudi Dolezal bring together a fascinating collection of interviews with the people in Whitney's inner circle including her stage manager mom Cissy Houston, Tina Brown (Bobby Brown's sister), a legal advisor to Whitney who wrote a report warning of her addictions, backing vocalists who toured extensively with the singer and Robyn Crawford, a close friend for 19 years and arguably the most stable influence in the star's tragically short life.
Fans of pop music history and Houston's achievements will be well-rewarded and no doubt very saddened by the journey on which this documentary takes them. It is in-depth and focuses less on the sensationalised events of her death than the path of her life from talented teenage gospel singer, to trailblazer for female African American pop singers, to deeply troubled wife, mother and finally, divorcee. At 1 hour 40 minutes, the producers do not rush Whitney's story and intriguingly chart the ups and the downs and the shades of grey of her 48 years.
And the best part? It will leave you remembering why you loved Whitney in the first place. Her beauty, her smile, her warmth and above all her other-worldly vocal talent, which was very real before her addictions left her without a voice later in her career.
Her music legacy is what matters most of all. As consumers of pop culture, this was her gift to us. I hope history will be good to Whitney and not dwell only on her fall from grace. Whitney: Can I Be Me is an important step in preserving a necessary account of the truth behind the tabloids.
Whitney: Can I Be Me is screening exclusively at Cinema Paradiso for one week only from June 15 to June 21.
Purchase tickets here.