How Will We Know? The Quagmire of Two Whitney Houston Movies

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If you see Whitney on a cinema marquee, you’re not experiencing déjà vu. Less than a year ago, British filmmaker Nick Broomfield offered a first look at the work and life of the celebrated and tragically departed pop singer Whitney Houston with the film Whitney: Can I Be Me; now comes a second documentary from Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void), with a shorter title, on the same subject. This strangely quick double-take marks how the unusual and often painful lives of great musical artists keep grabbing the attention of documentarians and spectators alike. Both Whitney Houston films come on the heels of a string of contemporary posthumous, biographical music documentaries, most notably Asif Kapadia’s 2015 Oscar-winning Amy; Martin Scorsese’s masterful George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011); both of Spike Lee’s Michael Jackson documentaries, Bad 25 (2012) and Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall (2016); and Liz Garbus’s 2015 Oscar-nominated Nina Simone film, What Happened, Miss Simone?

Manuela Lazicessay, ringer