Grace Jones’ vulnerability showcased in new documentary

The documentary shown at True/False Film Fest wonderfully captures the complicated and genuine persona of the ‘70s singer.

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Miss Grace Jones knows how to work a room.

No matter where she goes, she is the most commanding presence. This isn’t at all a bad thing; her aura naturally attracts you to her, making you stay on the edge of your seat as she tells personal anecdotes about her life. You never want her to stop talking.

This is best depicted in Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, which shows up-close and personal scenes of Jones’ interaction with her family, fans, producers and more. Unlike most documentaries that follow a musician on tour, this film isn’t commodifying Jones’ image.

Many tour documentaries want you to buy into the look of the artist. Their main goal is to generate revenue for everyone involved with the artist and get you to buy albums, T-shirts, hats, etc. Bloodlight and Bami does no such thing. Director Sophie Fiennes solely wants to present Jones to the audience and show her in her most vulnerable state.

The film is well structured, with Jones’ performances being interwoven with scenes showing her off the stage in Jamaica, France and New York City. Her performances are electric; they make you want to get up and start dancing. I often found myself transported when she sang on stage, forgetting that I was in a dark movie theater watching Jones on a screen and not in person.

While one would think that switching back and forth from concert performances to intimate moments would detract from the message of the film, thanks to the wonderful editing, none of the scenes feel out of place or awkward. Each song blends into the following scene, symbolizing how much of Jones’ life revolves around music.

The juxtaposition of Jones’ stage persona and her true self in the film helps the audience understand who Jones is as a human being. Fiennes does a remarkable job establishing Jones as a genuine person by showing how her behavior doesn’t change whether she’s onstage or offstage. There is an especially heartwarming moment in the film where Jones returns to Jamaica with her brother and plays a game of jacks with their old neighbor, who is now an elderly woman. Even if you go into the film not knowing who Jones is, by the end of it you will come out loving her.

Jones bares her soul in this documentary, where she makes it very clear that she doesn’t care about what people think of her. It is a beautiful film that gets you up close and personal with one of the most famous Studio 54 performers of the ‘70s. It’s not selling Grace Jones as a brand; it’s showing you who she is. Take it or leave it.

Edited by Brooke Collier | bcollier@themaneater.com

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