'Betty Davis: They Say I'm Different'
(Betty Davis, Fred Mills, Greg Errico, Tamar-Kali, Militia Vox, et al / DVD / NR / (2017) 2020 / MVD Visual)
Overview: Before Beyoncé, Madonna and Prince - there was Betty Davis.
Funk Queen Betty Davis changed the landscape for female artists in America. She "was the first..." as former husband Miles Davis said. "Madonna before Madonna, Prince before Prince."
DVD Verdict: An aspiring songwriter from a small steel town, Betty Davis arrived on the '70s scene to break boundaries for women with her daring personality, iconic fashion and outrageous funk music.
She befriended Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, wrote songs for the Chambers Brothers and the Commodores, and married Miles - startlingly turning him from jazz to funk on the album she named Bitches Brew.
She then, despite being banned and boycotted, went on to become the first black woman to perform, write and manage herself. Betty was a feminist pioneer, inspiring and intimidating in a manner like no woman before. Then suddenly - she vanished.
Along the way we discover that Davis briefly dated musician Eric Clapton although she refused to collaborate with him. And in 1975, Davis' lover Robert Palmer helped her facilitate a deal with Island Records (she subsequently released her album Nasty Gal).
To say she "vanished" might actually sound too ominous as Davis remained a cult figure thereafter as a singer, due in part to her open sexual attitude, which was controversial for the time, without even having to release anything.
She had success in Europe, but in the U.S. she was barred from performing on television because of her sexually aggressive stage persona!
Furthermore, some of her shows were boycotted, and her songs were not played on the radio due to pressure by religious groups and the NAACP.
Carlos Santana recalls Betty as "indomitable – she couldn't be tamed. Musically, philosophically and physically, she was extreme and attractive," which is one of the best descriptions of a human that I've come across in a long time.
That aside, after some recording sessions in 1979, as noted, Davis stopped making music and returned to Pittsburgh, where she's lived quietly ever since.
'Betty Davis: They Say I'm Different' is a highly creative, and absorbingly crafted 53 minute documentary that, along with moments of animation, traces the path of Betty's life: How she grew from humble upbringings to become a fully self-realized black female pioneer the world failed to understand or appreciate.
After years of trying, the elusive Betty, forever the free-spirited Black Power Goddess, finally allowed the filmmakers to creatively tell her story based on their conversations. Watch. Look. Listen. Learn, my friends. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Director Interview: Phil Cox on the making of Betty - They Say I'm Different
Interview Extract with Betty Davis