BETTY – THEY SAY I’M DIFFERENT had its world premiere at the prestigious Amsterdam International Documentary festival – IDFA – in November 2017 and then in New York City at the Billie Holiday Theater with a tribute led by Erykah Badu. The film is an intimate portrayal of Betty Mabry Davis of one of the most mysterious and revolutionary cult figures in popular music. Often labelled ‘The Godmother Of Funk”, her trailblazing life story addresses issues of race, gender, fame, and the role of liberated women in American society. The film is available to watch now – with extras – on STREAMING
“Betty Davis was a raw funk pioneer, with this documentary her decades of silence are over…” The New York Times // “ Eryku Badu presents the new extraordinary film on Betty Davis.” Billboard // “A beautiful impressionistic meditation on Betty Davis’s career.” The New Yorker
Betty, grew up in Pittsburgh, changed the landscape for female artists in America. She “…was the first…” as Miles Davis said. From an early age, Betty freed herself from social rules traditionally imposed on women and insisted on complete control of her image, and recordings, and in the case of her turbulent marriage to Miles Davis, her personal life as well. At the height of her fame in the early 1980s, she mysteriously disappeared from public life. In late 2012, after much research, the filmmakers discovered Betty Davis living quietly alone in outer Pittsburgh, and she entrusted the filmmakers with telling her story. With exclusive life rights and access to Betty, who is collaborated closely at every step, the filmmakers unraveled a powerful and tender life story that begins on a North Carolina farm, through the highs of the fashion and music world of New York and the West Coast in the 60s and 70s, and ends alongside the dormant steel mills of Pittsburgh where Betty has lived in solitude for the past 35 years.
Betty Davis is known for her outsized life, fashion and music in 1970s America — but her raunchy lyrics and explosive stage energy clashed with the race and gender stereotypes of her time, leading the NAACP and black middle class to object to her music and boycott her performances. This film reveals a very private Betty who fought to keep her integrity as a woman and songwriter, choosing to vanish from the music scene rather than compromise her creativity. Now living in the same steel town where she spent her childhood, Betty, for reasons that this film will reveal for the first time, chose to vanish from the limelight for three decades, cutting off from everyone from her past.
This film honors the legacy of Betty Davis and her lasting impact. This is a story that resides not in the past but in the here and now. Betty’s battle as a female artist breaking stereotypes, resisting commercialization and trying to be true to herself is a conflict played out endlessly today.
A NATIVE VOICE FILMS & LA COMPAGNIE DES TAXI BROUSSE film in Co-production with ARTE
Directed Written & Filmed by PHIL COX
Produced by GIOVANNA STOPPONI & DAMON SMITH & LAURENT MINI
Executive Producers: KARIM SAMAI & CATHERINE BAILEY
Editor ESTEBAN UYARRA
Associate Producers DANIELLE MAGGIO