Many people claimed the Academy Awards went soft when they opted for the feel-good music doc, ’20 Feet from Stardom’, over ‘The Act of Killing’, the grim story of Indonesian war criminals, for last year’s ‘Best Documentary Feature’.
To be honest, they've got a point. Whereas, ‘Killing’ was a deeply disturbing exploration of the depths of human inhumanity, albeit an ultimately unsuccessful one, ‘Stardom’ deals with something a whole lot more heart-warming; the untold story of African American backing singers throughout the 20th century.
Most of the movie conforms to this. The filmmakers effectively blend (occasionally mega-famous) talking heads with archive footage and moving reunion sessions, and the incredible personalities on show ensure it’s both insightful and entertaining.
However, they also overcome the soppiness by including a set of conflicts and, though small-scale, some of them really hit home. But, it’s the feel-good sections that really shine because, ultimately, it’s a movie about the soul of singing and the thrills that can bring. It may touch upon politics, both racial and sexual, but ‘Stardom’ is a movie defined by its charming leads. Even when they linger slightly too long on any particular issue, the movie pulls it back with smile on its face and music in its heart.
Deserving of its Oscar? On this evidence, absolutely.