The extraordinary biographical documentary Whitney: Can I Be Me?, directed by Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal, explores the glorious singing sensation, Whitney Houston, and the tragedy which unfortunately led to her death on February 11th, 2012.
The opening scene cleverly utilises a voiceover announcing the day ambulances arrived at Whitney’s place in Beverly Hills. Individuals are told that Houston died of a mixture of drugs, but the voiceover of Pattie Howard, Whitney’s bass singer, sentimentally explains that she in fact died of a broken heart .
The story goes back in time thirteen years before Houston’s death and the audience is able to see how adoring, gracious and caring Houston has alway been. There are numerous interviews from individuals who worked with Whitney and from her family and friends. These scenes are interspersed with past footage to remind viewers of what she was actually like as a person, and how the media portrayed her. Backing vocalist at Houston’s concerts, Sharlotte Gibson describes in the film that, “Everything came naturally for Whitney”.
Born in 1963 as an African-American female artist in Newark, New Jersey, the hardships, struggles and riots that were commencing in her hometown, provided Houston with inspiration for her music. The film depicts how Whitney’s mother, Cissy Houston, dictated her decisions and choices throughout Whitney’s career. “Can I be me?” was Whitney’s favourite saying when things in her life got tough.
This intense biographical documentary also displays Houston’s rise to fame, starting from her appearance in the drama/thriller, The Bodyguard, when her popularity exploded. When various interviewers would interview Houston about her success, she would state that, “Success doesn’t change you; fame does.”
The film explores Houston’s famous 1999 tour, including the role of bad boy, RnB rapper, and then husband, Bobby Brown, and how he became more involved with Houston’s music performances and contributed to her accidental death. The film also displays the close connection between Houston and her daughter Bobbi Kristina, who tragically died on July 25th 2015 the same way her mother did. The film explores many other factors, such as Houston battling her own demons, individuals not seeing clearly what was happening to Houston, and others being jealous of her fame. Houston during the film replies back to the camera stating, “You have to find the happiness in yourself before you step into this business.”
Reiterating her strong, unique and mesmerising voice, the film captures Houston’s talent, but also sends a strong message to her fans and audience members watching the film, that music can be so much more, as it makes individuals feel things and can relate to events happening in our own lives. As the biographical documentary depicts, Houston captivated the world by sharing her talent and as well by voicing her opinions on how music can be an escape place when life gets too hectic.
Whitney: Can I Be Me? is in cinemas from 15th June through Rialto Distribution.