The essence of such an imposing presence as Grace Jones may be difficult to appropriately capture on screen without inadvertently reducing her to a stereotype (be it that of a Jamaican woman, a Disco-era fashion icon or a fierce musician), or at the very least employing many marketable clichés in an attempt to make the film digestible for a wide audience. Fortunately, director Sophie Fiennes manages to avoid producing a trite, predictable film by opting for the cinéma vérité school.
Unlike many documentaries, Fiennes’ filming technique allows the audience to act as a fly on the wall and witness the deconstruction of pop deity, Grace Jones. Throngs of adoring fans still see her as larger than life, but the documentary shows the multifaceted nature of Jones’ carefully crafted mask, as we witness her in moments of vulnerability – as a mother, lover, daughter and grandmother.
The stage remains the place where she can fully embody her emotions and life experiences with unbridled theatricality. The interposition of her most iconic songs with footage from a trip Jones took to Jamaica allows the audience a once-in-a-lifetime peek at the traumatic youth she experienced. The powerful feelings it triggers make the documentary even more valuable.
Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami is not inspiring in its depiction of Jones’ rags-to-riches story, but rather in the resilience she still shows as a cultural icon with an incredibly diverse following. She dispels not only the myth around her own persona, but that general aura of mystery surrounding pop-icon status, so coveted by young entertainers.
This transporting film, despite lacking an actual narrative plot line, has a coherence that makes it heavily resemble a collection of neatly-stacked family photos and postcards from long ago. The viewing audience sifts through them together with Jones, as if present alongside her.
CAST: Grace Jones, Jean-Paul Goude, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare
DIRECTOR: Sophie Fiennes
SYNOPSIS: In the early 2000s, music icon Grace Jones returned to her native Jamaica to finally gain some closure about her past. Bloodlight and Bami looks back at some of her most remarkable musical and personal moments.