The documentary 20 Feet from Stardom is well-crafted and even slick, but it also taps into a deeper spirit that is emotionally satisfying.
The most impressive thing about this film is that it works on at least three levels by providing a historical look at the role of backup singers in popular music, conveying and contextualizing changes in the music industry over time, and sharing personal narratives of backup singers who may not be household names but are enormously talented in their own right.
This layering makes the film chronological, topical, and personal within a structure that feels organic despite its complexity. And, in this way, the film does justice to the music it showcases.
But, there is more.
20 Feet from Stardom is packed with life lessons that are even bigger than music. Themes in the film inform but transcend (that’s not a paradox – think about it) the chronological, topical, and individual (maybe not so much the personal in this regard).
This is a film about what it means to embrace your gifts, accept yourself, and find your place in the world.
I did not know about Lisa Fischer before this film, and she is both an awesome talent (not in the overused sense of that word) and an authentic, peaceful person who seems to have figured out when to strive and when to let it be.
Not everyone in the film has found that balance (and Fischer’s is not the only compelling story in the film by a longshot), but these conflicts, as the saying goes, are the stuff that drama is made of. Or, the stuff of dreams…the stuff dreams are made of…that dreams are made on…and so it goes…
Regardless, of how you feel about dreaming and talent and fame, take in this picture. I feel sure you’ll find more than one thing to appreciate about it.
There are so many layers, delicious layers!