Whitney. “Can I Be Me”
As a 16-year-old in East Orange, New Jersey, Whitney Elizabeth Houston was already on the cusp of international stardom. She told her best friend Robyn Crawford, “stick with me, and I’ll take you around the world.” And that’s just what she did. Opening her heart (and wallet) to family and friends, she became one of the most successful female recording artists in the world. But with fame came devastating setbacks, not just in the form of her well-documented struggle with drugs but also due to a deeply racist and homophobic industry that forced the singer to discard her true self and adopt an impossibly pristine public persona.
With never-before-seen footage that takes us inside the most tense and intimate moments of her 1999 “My Love Is Your Love” World Tour along with interviews with some of those closest to the star, prolific documentarian Nick Broomfield (Kurt & Courtney, Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer) and renowned music video director Rudi Dolezal uncover a sprawling and revealing portrait of the superstar — from a youth inspired by gospel music to a singer plagued by addiction and fed-up with playing a role both on- and off-stage.
Whitney. “Can I Be Me” reveals, with heartbreaking detail, how the music industry obscured a gifted woman’s race and sexuality in order to maximize profit. But it also finds refuge in the sheer power of her jaw-dropping vocals as well as her captivating stage presence, illustrating with riveting archival sequences why she is still regarded today as one of the most gifted singers in history.
— JEFFREY HARTINGER
- Premiere Status: Bay Area