Film Review by Kam Williams
Against-the-Odds Documentary Chronicles the Inspirational Ascension of Youtube Singing Sensation
By day, Samantha Montgomery cared for the elderly as an orderly in a New Orleans old folks home. After hours, however, the aspiring singer/songwriter spent most of her free time pursuing her elusive dream of superstardom.
As Princess Shaw, she would perform solo in local clubs on open mic nights, mostly in front of inattentive, unappreciative audiences. She also posted heartfelt renditions of her original tunes on Youtube where she failed to generate much of a following.
But lucky for Princess, among her handful of fans was Ophir "Kutiman" Kutiel, a pioneering composer/musician/video artist living half a world away on a kibbutz in Israel. Without her knowledge, he began producing her tunes in the studio, augmenting her haunting a cappella vocals with an orchestra that included keyboards, bass, cello, viola, drums, guitars, percussion, violins, saxophones and a brass section.
Miraculously, this promising diamond in the rough was suddenly blessed with a very professional sound evocative of Amy Winehouse. And when Kutiman subsequently released his polished version of Princess' "Give It Up" on Youtube, it soon went viral, generating millions of hits.
Next thing you know, the new internet sensation not only had a following, but found herself being mentioned in everything from the New York Times to People Magazine, all thanks to a generous stranger she'd never even spoken to. Eventually, the two do finally meet when Princess flies to Tel Aviv to do a show booked by Kutiman.
So unfolds Presenting Princess Shaw, a moving documentary directed by Ido Haar. The inspirational picture devotes as much time to details of Princess' traumatic personal life as to her magical music.
Along the way, we learn that she was left traumatized by the physical and sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of her mother's boyfriend while growing up in Chicago. Today, she continues to encounter a host of challenges, being, black, gay and struggling financially.
Let's just hope that Princess Shaw is able to turn the corner with the help of this uplifting biopic and Kutiman's mashups of her soulful ballads.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 83 minutes
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
To see a trailer for Presenting Princess Shaw , visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMXGIch82ZU
To see Princess Shaw performing Give It Up as producerd by Kutiman, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoHxoz_0ykI