Twenty Feet From Stardom Director Morgan Neville on His Own "Cinderella Moment"

Morgan Neville.jpg
If there was one standout moment during the 30th installment of the Miami International Film Festival, it was Darlene Love's performance of "Lean on Me" that followed the opening-night screening of Twenty Feet From Stardom, the documentary about back-up singers in which she is featured. (We've already written about how her pipes threatened the very structural integrity of the Gusman.)

Twenty Feet From Stardom, Morgan Neville's documentary about African-American female back-up singers and the first film to sell at this year's Sundance Film Festival, will be widely released to theaters June 14 by the Weinstein Company and is being put forth by many industry watchers as proof of the Weinstein brothers' resurgence following their separation from Miramax.

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- Twenty Feet From Stardom: Darlene Love Dominates at MIFF Opening Night



"I'm having my Cinderella moment here," Neville tells Cultist, "which in a way is kind of the back-up-singer experience. I think we're all having this Cinderella moment together here, but as much as I'm enjoying it, so much of my enjoyment is watching other people watch and appreciate these singers. That's just been so cool. So many of these women are religious, and they kept saying, "Morgan, we're praying for you,' as we're making the film. 'We're praying it's going to be a big hit.' I don't think there's ever been a documentary more prayed over than our documentary.

"Which is good," he continues. "It's delivering."

Though Neville is a veteran music documentarian, having produced the recent Rolling Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane and directed flicks about everyone from Johnny Cash to Iggy & the Stooges, Twenty Feet From Stardom is one of those rare documentaries that not only receives universal acclaim but also transcends its subject to explore far larger themes.  

Explains Neville: "Ideally, the film is about more than just music. It becomes about how do you deal with not accomplishing your dreams, perseverance, disappointment, faith -- all these kinds of issues come up. So we had these amazing Q&As with people crying and talking about their own experiences. And the thing that was really amazing was that our back-up singers, our stars of the film, finally are getting the thing that the film is about them not getting."

For the first time in his career, Neville feels like a documentary he has worked on deserves a sequel. These new experiences he's filming bits and pieces of now wouldn't be part of it, however.

"There are at least four or five other amazing artists and stories that are on the cutting-room floor. People like Gloria Jones, who is barely in there. She had the original hit of "Tainted Love" in the '60s that Soft Cell covered later. And she was one of this handful of African-American female singers who moved to London to become session singers. She ended up falling in love with Marc Bolan from T. Rex and having a kid with him. She was driving the car when he died, and she damaged her vocal cords and couldn't sing after that. And now she runs the Marc Bolan School of Music in Sierra Leone, Africa. Just her story is a film."

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Gusman Center for the Performing Arts

174 E. Flagler St., Miami, FL

Category: General

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