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Whitney: Can I Be Me
U.S.A./U.K. 2017

Opening 8 Jun 2017

Directed by: Nick Broomfield, Rudi Dolezal
Writing credits: Nick Broomfield
Principal actors: Whitney Houston

There is such a quantity of quality archival footage in Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal’s documentary, we expect Whitney Houston to appear for a curtain call. But then, we know from the opening sequence that is not going to happen. During Whitney’s successful 1999 world tour some filmmakers received unprecedented access back stage, and that footage is the backbone here. Nick Broomfield’s well-structured screenplay arrangement shows personal footage of 12-year-old Whitney singing gospel and later shot in hotels and behind the scenes, intermingled with her television appearances and interviews, and receiving awards. Interviews with family, good friends, and close associates construct her private and professional background into a substantial film about her life and struggles with personal relationships, drink, and drugs.           

Marc Hoeferlin’s shrewd editing, Sam Mitchell camerawork, and original music by Nick Laird-Clowes unify and sustain the archival footage. With so many people to keep track of, Hoeferlin should have repeated the lower third names more than once. The German subtitles are appalling: distracting, confusing, and poorly positioned onscreen. Both are a disservice to Whitney: Can I Be Me.

Her music is fantastic, her life moving. The price of fame, lack of self-confidence and self-image problem, and a self-centered inner echelon took its toll on Whitney. Molded and managed by people intent only on short-term goals makes her death tragic indeed. Especially, considering they are benefiting from films, music, etc. royalties still. 103 minutes  (Marinell Haegelin)

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