Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Right from the outset, this film zeroes in on Tina's natural charisma." | Photo: Courtesy of Glasgow Film Festival

She's a multi-platinum selling artist, one of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and she's widely known as the Queen of Rock 'n' Roll, so why does everybody with something to say about Tina Turner think the most interesting thing about her is that she was in an abusive relationship? 33% of women and 25% of men experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives. She has been an icon to many of those seeking to escape, hailed as a survivor, but there is more to her story.

Tina's life, subsequent to her escape and reinvention, has been marked by a series of efforts to kill that part of her story. Instead, she's been forced to relive it over and over again - what she thinks of as a failed life, a mess, full of painful memories. Is this another attempt to have the final word in it? Not really. At 80 years of age, she seems resigned to it. She does want to clear up some misunderstandings, however, and she wants to situate it in the context of a story that's about much, much more.

With unparalleled access to the star, directors Daniel Lindsay and TJ Martin set out to tell her story right through from the early days when her incredible voice first came to public attention, to her struggle to support four sons by doing Vegas cabaret shows, through her re-emergence at the age of 45 and all the way to the present. Alongside Tina's own contributions there's an extensive interview with one of those sons, Craig, who took his own life not long afterwards, a matter which the film refrains from addressing but which will inevitable influence how viewers experience his testimony. Assorted key figures from Tina's life discuss their time with her and their contributions to the development of her music. There is also an effort to put Ike Turner's point of view. He died in 2007 but left a record of his thinking on many aspects of their time together.

One of the reasons that people in abusive relationships often refrain from speaking out is that they still have feelings for the partners who hurt them. The popular narrative is that Tina must have hated Ike, but she makes it clear here that her feelings were more complex and she had no ill will towards him. She describes some of the abuse in graphic terms which some viewers will find difficult to listen to, but that part of the film is kept short. He eventually seems to have recognised his failings, at least to a degree. Rather that turning on him, she simply eclipsed him. Her meteoric rise to fame at an age when women were - and still are - widely considered to be past it, was a testament not just to her talent but to her unrelenting capacity for hard work.

Right from the outset, this film zeroes in on Tina's natural charisma. She never thought of herself as pretty and often gave the impression of shyness, but she had a raw physicality on stage which can be seen in film of her performing with the Ikettes. She never belonged in the background. it's fascinating to see how, over the course of her life, that quality which she could only express when performing filtered through into the rest of her life, to the point where, when she finally met the right man, she didn't hesitate in setting out to seduce him. One can also see her physical confidence growing offstage in archive material from different stages of her career.

Music fans will love this film for the way it gets into the nitty gritty of the creative process - nowhere more so than when it comes to her transformation of What's Love Got To Do With It?, a song which we se performed in its original form by Bucks Fizz. Needless to say, Tina hated the thought of recording a version, but went on to make it her own, illustrating the complexity of the creative relationship between songwriter and performer.

This isn't the Tine Turner documentary that some people will have been waiting for. It isn't concerned with the popular idea of how her story should be framed, nor with the myths that emerged from that. It is, rather, a portrait of an artist who always had something to contribute, even when she doubted it herself. The celebratory aspect of the ending is well earned, and it's a fine tribute to a woman who has had it with being described only in terms of her suffering, who is ready to be recognised for the force that she has always been.

Tina will air on Sky Documentaries and NOW TV on 28 March and will be available on all formats via altitude.film

Reviewed on: 02 Mar 2021
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A documentary celebration of Tina Turner.

Director: Daniel Lindsay, TJ Martin

Writer: Daniel Lindsay, TJ Martin

Starring: Angela Bassett, Oprah Winfrey, Tina Turner, Katori Hall, Kurt Loder

Year: 2021

Runtime: 118 minutes

Country: US


Glasgow 2021
BIFF 2021

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