Approx advert and trailer run time: 25 mins
Film run time: 1h 29min
Leslie Woodhead’s documentary observes the singer’s journey into the limelight and the ambition and courage that drove her.
Performing from 1934 at the age of 15 and performing right up to 1993, only three years before her death, Ella Fitzgerald has long been enshrined as an iconic jazz vocalist of the twentieth century, but whose life and legacy is less well-explored as those of her fellow icons Holliday and Simone.
In the tried-and-true talking heads format, the film establishes her as a great singer, mastering crowd-pleasing showtunes and more adventurous scat and bebop numbers, through celebrity endorsements from the likes of Jamie Cullum and Laura Mvula, but is equally fascinating on her personality and strength of character, from the recollections of colleagues, her adopted son, and archive reminiscences of the singer herself.
The film does not shy from the issue of race, showing the discrimination she faced and the quiet, but firm stand she took against it. Like its subject, the film may not be too radical in its approach, but it possesses a unique grace and power in its portrait of a titanic figure too-often taken for granted.