In a sensitively arranged mix of video material and interviews, the two-hour documentary shows what made the singer exceptional and how the simultaneity of highs and lows shaped her life. Streaming now.
A singing career spanning more than 50 years, an almost inexhaustible amount of video, audio and photo material, many well-known biographical details, countless musical companions – where do you start when you want to tell about Tina Turner’s life? Directors TJ Martin and Daniel Lindsay, who won an Oscar for their 2011 football documentary Undefeated, decided to engage viewers first: a sweaty open-air concert in the 1980s, with Tina in tinsel dresses and Lion’s Mane performs her angry love song “Ask Me How I Feel” opens her two-hour film.
A burst of energy that recalls what made Tina Turner exceptional from the start of her career: her dance style bursting with originality and strength, her unusual rough voice and what actress Angela Bassett called the then unusual “in your face” – a mix of sexuality and sensuality.
But from this initial burst of energy, “Tina” gracefully transitions into a pause. The lively flood of images and sounds from her performances from the 1960s is superimposed from the off by current conversations with the 81-year-old Turner. “It wasn’t a good life,” she says, looking back on that time.
“There was always the shadow of Ike”
In five chapters, “Tina” then tells of Tina Turner’s life, with the first titled “Ike&Tina” leading us directly into the part of her life that has received the most attention from the press: her 20 years at the side of musician and producer Ike Turner, with whom she has a marriage marked by severe physical and psychological abuse. “Tina” makes no secret of this topic, but knows how to deal with the simultaneity of musical high points and private low points.
Impressive live recordings of their countless performances, successful stages and everyday tour life are shown and commented on by former band members and classified by music journalist Kurt Loder. At the same time, Tina Turner reports from the off what happened before and after the concerts. “Guilt and fear”, but also isolation and financial dependency prevented her for a long time from leaving her husband, who regularly beat and raped her.
It is a formative and never resting chapter in Tina Turner’s life, as the further course of “Tina” makes clear: After her separation from Ike in 1976, she tirelessly pursues her solo career, but is always asked about her ex-husband. “There was always Ike’s shadow,” comments backup singer Annie Behringer at one point – and this seemed inevitable.
Hoping to finally put an end to questions about her marriage, Turner opened up about her experience of domestic violence in a 1981 interview with People magazine and in her autobiography, I, Tina (1986). But the press soon reduced Turner to this topic. Interview excerpts show how questions about Ike and her marriage accompanied her furious and by no means self-evident comeback in the 1980s. Here, too, TJ Martin and Daniel Lindsay know how to convey highlights and dark sides in equal measure: “Tina” shows how Turner’s open handling of the subject of domestic violence encouraged countless victims of violence, but also led to a permanent confrontation with their past.
Searching for “closure”
It is a past, as the last chapter of “Tina” makes clear, which the public does not let go of, but with which Turner at least came to terms in the end: “At a certain point, forgiveness takes over,” was her conclusion. This arrangement probably also includes other painful experiences in Tina Turner’s life that the film either touches on marginally (the difficult relationship with her mother) or leaves out entirely (the suicide of her son Craig, to whom this film is dedicated in the credits).
Here it becomes clear that there is so much more that could be told about Tina Turner’s life, but this film pleads for what Turner has been longing for since her retirement from the stage: “Closure”, a happy ending to her life. Through its sensitive handling of the difficult simultaneity of light and shadow in Turner’s life, the documentary “Tina”, which is well worth seeing, grants her this wish.
“Tina” is currently available for streaming on WOW and Sky Go.
Tina Turner Rob Verhorst/Redferns