A treasure trove of recently unearthed archive interviews by those who knew and worked with her provides the core of this extraordinary film about the life and music of Billie Holiday. In the 1970s, journalist Linda Lipnack Kuehl conducted dozens of interviews, amassing 200 hours of footage, with friends and colleagues of Holiday in preparation for a biography of her. But 20 years after the singer’s death, Kuehl herself passed away. James Erskine’s film completes Kuehl’s mission, albeit on film. Drawing on this rich archive, along with a wealth of film footage, ‘Billie’ presents a thorough portrait of the jazz artist, whose voice soared to emotional heights few singers have ever been able to equal. Raw and brutally honest, there are testimonies from icons of the great jazz age, including Charles Mingus, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie and Tony Bennett, as well as Holiday’s step-parents, school friends, jail-mates, lawyers, pushers, pimps and even the FBI agents who arrested her. Together with Erskine’s richly cinematic approach to his material, it presents Holiday as a complex, gifted and troubled soul whose pain and joy poured into the songs she sung, and which provided solace for the millions who listed to her.
★★★★ “Very fascinating” - Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian