Directed and Written by John Ridley, Jimi: All Is By My Side gives an artistic look at who this rock legends career beginning in the UK with a gig at the Saville Theatre in London on June 4, 1967 and ends with his getting off the plane to play the Monterey jazz Festival, which ultimately led to his historic Woodstock performance.
Mixed from time to time with footage of the real Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Eric Clapton and various other rock legends, we see how Jimi Hendrix goes from being a background guitarist and heavily influenced by Curtis Mayfield (know for his soundtracks on the films Sparkle and SuperFly) to becoming one of the most influential rock guitarist of the 20th century.
In light of his genius, we often forget that he accomplished this feat in the early 60's, when racial inequality and drug use was at it height in the US and the UK.
The standout in this film other than the spectacular musicianship of Andre' Benjamin (better know as Andre' 3000 from the rap group Outkast) is Ruth Negga as Ida. Negga is deliciously deceptive as Jimi's jump off and you just want to slap her for being such a troll. Benjamin nails Hendrix’s vocal intonation, his easy physicality and translated them all into a performance that does capture something of the man’s essence onscreen.
Biopic films are always tricky to pull off for a variety of reasons. In this instance, a very early problem occurs in Jimi: All Is by My Side, long before the first frame is even captured. The production’s request to the Hendrix estate for the rights to use the music of the late guitarist in their film was refused… As such, there is not one single Hendrix song in the entire film.
Now, this is certainly an insurmountable hurdle, but Ridley takes an alternate route, telling the story of the time before Hendrix became Hendrix. This was a time before Purple Haze, and there are moments from this part of Hendrix’s life that are certainly worth seeing, that simply couldn’t be neglected like Hendrix’s infamous upstaging of Eric Clapton being one of them.
Jimi: All is By My Side premiered earlier this year at the Toronto International film Festival and was released on a limited basis in the the US on September 26th.