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Grace Jones “Bloodlight and Bami” Documentary Review

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Grace Jones “

Distributed by: Kino Lorber
CAST: Grace Jones, Jean Paul Goude, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare
Directed and Edited by: Sophie Fiennes
Writer: Leonie Gombrich
Producers: Katie Holly, Sophie Fiennes, Beverly Jones, Shani Hinton
Executive Producers: Christine Langan, Joe Oppenheimer, Lizzie Francke, Keith Potter, Francesca Von Habsburg, Danielle Ryan, Alan Maher, James Wilson, Émilie Blézat
Editor: Sophie Fiennes
Cinematographer: Remko Schnorr
Musical Director: Ivor Guest
, Toronto International Film Festival 2017
Time: 115 min. UK/Ireland

The new documentary Grace Jones “Bloodlight and Bami” shows that Jones is just as interesting off-stage as she is onstage. The new Grace Jones biopic “Bloodlight and Bami” dives into the singer/performance artist’s personal life in a way that has rarely been seen. Grace’s mother Margerie, who recently died, is in the film and Grace was very close to her considering the severe abuse her and her five siblings experienced when they were left behind as children in Spanishtown Jamaica while their parents moved to Syracuse, New York to set up a life for the family. During the film, she briefly talks about being there when her father died yet she rarely addresses what some have said was a distance he developed with her as an artist since he was a minister.

This past summer, I just so happened to be at my first Toronto Film Festival and literally walked past Grace as she was signing autographs before the premiere of the movie unaware it was her. She had on a long wig.

The movie was funny and interesting and there were certain parts of it that reminded me of Paris is Burning which was a very depressing and tragic film but Bloodlight was more uplifting and very matter of fact.

Grace Jones “Bloodlight and Bami”

Grace goes back home in the film to Spanishtown Jamaica returning effortlessly to her incredibly humble beginnings. The home where she and her other five siblings had to stay while her parents moved to Syracuse was a very small and basic hut. It was very dark and cluttered and there were live chickens running around the backyard. This view of the icon’s life is a far cry from the 5-star hotels and stretch limos she has often been seen in. This was a part of what was missing in the film, Grace’s thoughts on what it was like to make it in show business despite her background. She does sit with a female relative and talks about being abused by the woman’s’ much younger husband named Mas P. Apparently, he married the woman when she was an older single lady and he did not expect children, to say the least, five of them.

Grace’s brother the Minister Noel Jones appears in the film and talks about the abuse and how Grace was even as a child. One of the most powerful points she makes in the film is about how powerful it is to be an artist like her and lonely at the same time as well as fascinating. One could imagine that to be true considering Grace was such a far cry from most black female singers in the history of music excusing singers like Josephine Baker and Eartha Kitt, who were also largely astray from black audiences. I would have also liked to hear more about her history in the industry as a recording artist. What it was like to have a top 5 hit with 1981’s Pull Up to the Bumper” and how she felt about being largly rejected by the black audience or if it even mattered. Grace also doesn’t discuss her status as a gay icon or being a huge part of the disco era in the late 70s then being one of the few survivors as a new wave artist shortly thereafter. Grace was always ahead of her time and right on time at the same time which is what makes her so interesting.

She does address her masculine side and makes an interesting statement during the film about it. She admits the stark feminine contrast on stage is the character of a psychological experience she was not aware of, a therapist pointed out that her performance like this onstage is actually her imitating the abuser in her childhood Mas P. He was very militant and he had a stare that looked right through you, one of Grace’s other bothers describes in the film.

Grace Jones “Bloodlight and Bami”

Grace has a great sense of humor about her current career status as she takes on a couple of smaller gigs from her hardcore fanbase during the film to help pay for her new self-produced album. There is a scene where she lip sinks to “La Vie En Rose,” the original version from the 70s. She was not aware of the set and let the production company use their vision for it, since they are paying, and when she gets there, she is surprised to see that there are girls dancing around her sensually in lingerie during the song. Grace has on a black suit with an odd hat and complains to the producer of the video that she feels like a lesbian pimp with all those girls dancing around her like that and says “Do you have any male dancers?”

Since it’s a documentary I don’t want to give too much more away except that she eats oysters during the entire film like most people chew gum. Her son Paulo, who should be close to 40, appears in the movie briefly but he doesn’t say much. He tours with her as a drummer in her band and he is also a model.

Bloodlight and Bami, in a nutshell, is a good lesson about celebrity and legacy. In the days when Grace was on the charts, many singers did not write their own songs which today is the standard. After a few hits, this can create a lifetime of residuals. There could have been a bit more coverage from her family and even a couple of close friends. There wasn’t a lot of coverage on how Grace got started in the industry and there could have been more wisdom and lesson’s learned over the years discussed. Grace is still performing and considered an icon but she was often ignored by the mainstream. Perhaps that was her, no pun intended, saving Grace, not being steered during her career to be who she was not which has often led to severe drug and alcohol abuse by more mainstream stars. She’s been a performer for more than 40 years. It’s great that Grace doesn’t take herself to seriously but she does get pissed off in a couple of scenes when her money is not ready. She refuses to perform on any stage unless she is paid in advance.

Overall it was a fairly good movie but it could have dug a bit deeper.

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