Country: UK
Year: 2019
Duration: 96'

In the late 1960’s journalist Linda Lipnack Kuehl set out to write the definitive biography of Billie Holiday, one of the greatest voices of all time, a figure of controversy: a black woman in a white man’s world, both a victim and a rebel. The testimonies ranged from musical greats like Charles Mingus, Tony Bennett, Sylvia Syms and Count Basie to her cousin, school friends, lovers, lawyers, pimps and even the FBI agents who arrested her. But Linda’s book was never finished and the tapes unplayed. Now, five decades after, James Erskine had access to 200 hours of never-before-heard interviews; and thaks to these astonishing material, his film showcases an American legend, capturing her depths and complexity.

Programmed in collaboration with Seeyousound


film director

James Erskine

(UK) is a Brithis filmaker and documentarist. His critically-acclaimed theatrical works include The Battle of the Sexes (2013), the film dedicated to the tennis player Billie Jean King which inspired the recent Emma Stone and Steve Carrell feature; Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist (2014), about the death of the famous italian cyclist; Sachin: A Billion Dreams (2017), portrait of the cricket player Sachin Tendulkar, which opened at number one at the Indian box office and grossed over $10million worldwide. After the series Checkered Flag: Victory (2017), he served as lead director on Amazon’s series This Is Football (2019).


George Lucas - Flying Solo (doc, ep. serie tv Omnibus, 1997), Rebecca Horn Is Travelling (doc, ep. serie tv Tate Modern, 2000), The Invitation (cm, 2001), The Human Face (doc, serie tv, 2001), EastEnders (serie tv, 2002), Bhagavad Gita (doc, ep. serie tv Art That Shook the World, 2002), EMR (2004), Ruby Does the Business (doc, serie tv, 2004), Oil Storm (tv, 2005), Closing the Deal (cm, 2005), Attack on London (tv, 2005-2007), Holby City (serie tv, 2002-2006), Gold Diggers: The World's Biggest Bank Robbery (doc, serie tv, 2006), Random Shoes (ep serie tv Torchwood, 2006), Show Me the Money e For England...! (ep serie tv Robin Hood, 2007), Rock Rivals (serie tv, 2008), Waterloo Road (serie tv, 2009), Who Killed the Honey Bee? (doc, tv, 2009), One Night in Turin (doc, 2010), My Kid Survived (doc, tv, 2010), From the Ashes (doc, ep serie tv Dive of Terror, 2011), Shouldn't Be Alive (serie tv, 2011), The Battle of the Sexes (doc, 2013), Billie Jean King (ep serie tv, American Masters, 2013), The Legend of Billie Jean King: Battle of the Sexes (doc, tv, 2013), Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist (doc, 2014), Shooting for Socrates (2014), Building Jerusalem: the Making of Modern Rugby (doc, 2015), The Healer (2015), Le Mans: 3D (doc, 2016), Sachin: A Billion Dreams (doc, 2017), Checkered Flag: Victory (Le Mans: correre è tutto, serie tv, 2017), The Ice King (doc, 2018), This Is Football (doc, serie tv, 2019), Billie (doc, 2019), The End of the Storm (2020).


film director

“One of the biggest decisions, was that to colorize the film. We felt strongly that because Billie’s life was lived in color we would be doing a dis-service to contemporary audiences and to the resonance of her story to leave it trapped in a world of black and white film. For us what drove this was the desire for the film to feel a great sense of immediacy,for audiences of all ages... […] Deep in the edit room, however, we were building Billie’s story - trying to make sense of her enigma and to ensure that the film wasn’t just “about” her, but felt her presence all the way through it. We had the images and footage of course, and we pulled together her surviving audio interviews, but what was essential to me, was to make sure there was enough room in the film to sit back and admire her power, her genius, and also to ensure the audience grasped that Billie’s story was told through the songs she sang.”


& Credits

DIRECTOR, SCREENPLAY: James Erskine. CINEMATOGRAPHY: Tim Cragg. FILM EDITING: Avdhesh Mohla. PRODUCERS: Victoria Gregory, Barry Clark Ewers, James Erskine, Laure Vaysse. PRODUCTION: New Black Films.

CONTACTS: Feltrinelli Real Cinema, Daniela Basso