This was probably the most disappointing documentary I have ever seen, and was certainly the worst documentary ever made about a subject so deserving of retrospection and reappraisal. The documentary as it stands, doesn't even deserve to be called a documentary. It's more of a featurette, something that would be more at home as a bonus feature on a DVD/BluRay to a better film. It's short, quite short, significantly less than an hour. A lot of the running time is given over to boring, over-played stock footage, that is accompanied by narration by a woman, I assume Betty herself but there no indication, that is, poetic, but willfully obscure, and rarely ever gives us any facts. In the end, we don't really learn anything about Betty that we didn't already know from reading her wikipedia page. There almost no discussion about her music, the very thing that made all of us, her die hard fans, fall in love with her. They spend time discussing how raunchy it was, and ground breaking it was from a sexual sociopolitical view point, but they never discuss the actual music, or how the band worked in the studio, or how Betty would write the songs and collaborate with her band. Betty doesn't even appear in the documentary herself, save for one blurry close-up shot of one quarter of a face, that we're left to assume is Betty, but we can't be sure. Her voice is featured once in the film, in a scene where her former band calls her on the telephone and we hear her on speaker. Spoiler, they don't get any answers from her either. The movie is a collection of missed opportunities, and poor execution. The only positive thing about the whole film is there is a few seconds of actual concert footage of Betty from the 1970's sprinkled through out the film, but it's not enough to make this film worth watching.
In november 2017, after some years of waiting in patience, I finally saw the documentairy 'Betty - They say I'm different' about the life and times of the underestimated goddess of seventies funk Betty Davis. This documentary got it's world premiere at the 2017 edition of the International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam (IDFA) and was realized by independent filmmaker Phil Cox, director of the Native Voice Films company from the UK and his team. In one word, this documentay is awesome. As an early crowdfunder of this documentary, fan of the mysterious Betty since the mid eighties when I discovered her music, it felt like an historic moment to view it. Her music is still unique, a style of her own. Her roots, growing up in post-war America with severe wounds of the slavery times, poverty of the black community, segregation and the struggle for equal rights explains a lot of things about Betty's music. The documentairy however provided a deeper look. Instead of adapting to white codes, Betty became a free thinker. At a very young age Betty Mabry (her maiden name), started writing songs. About freedom. About pain. About being a woman. About being a unique human. Strong lyrics and songs, not political or to protest, she kept it close to herself. A very courageous voice, singing 'Are you ready for Betty' on one of her first vinyl 7" records was a very authentic statement in the sixties and early eventies. In particular, being a black woman and on your own. This situation has improved, but is still often the case today I think... Later on, she discovered she had more creative talents then songwriting and singing. Fashion, art, the visualisation of ideas, all came together in the early seventies. She was way ahead of her times. But after three great, revolutionary but shamelessly ignored and overlooked albums she seemed to have disappeared from earth. Phil and his team managed to get contact with her and have gained confidence from her to make this documentary with her cooperation. They discovered rare footage and the story is partly unwinded. Betty has had difficult decades after her withdrawal from the music industry. The good news is that she is writing again, the crow, symbolic element for inspiration in this documentairy has returned. The strong image is connected with her sensitive character in this raw and beautiful film. I have to mention the fabulous animations made by Phil Good, a great way to connect the different parts of Betty's story. This must-see documentairy gives hope. Betty's message of the past and her actual struggle for life has something important to say to loads of people. In particular people who have to struggle. This is so much more than a music documentary. Big 'chapeau' for Phil and his Native Voice Film team. It was a big honour for me to have played quite a lot of the orginal vinyl releases of Betty Mabry/Betty Davis as a dj at the world premiere at Pathe de Munt cinema on the IDFA festival in Amsterdam. Koert Sauer, dj, fan and crowdfunding participant
Now I can't get enough. Well made documentary. I couldn't take my eyes off of it. I was left wanting more because I had never heard of her and now I'm in awe of her brilliant forward thinking music and style.
Director Phil Cox uses striking camera angles with startling imagery and sets up the documentary by easing the viewer into the world of this genius musician. Betty Mabry Davis was ahead of her time, she took risks and garnered the respect of musicians who had the opportunity to work with her. A career that was too short but never shortchanged is a testimony to the soulful work of Betty Davis. The viewer is not subjected to a tell all but is left with a sense of knowing there must have been a good reason(s) for Betty to step aside from the music industry. Her music was unknown to me before watching this film. Now I listen to lyrics of Nasty Gal and I know I have stumbled onto a rare and wonderful thing. If you love rock and roll, funk or rhythm and blues, you must see this artist in action.