Tina Turner

Now, we’re going to take the beginning of this review and do it nice and easy. Or we’ll at least try to because attempting to sum up the entire life and works of one of the most celebrated music icons of our time is anything but easy. Tina Turner has lived a truly remarkable life. Her past is littered with ups and downs as high and low as those rivers and mountains she sang about all those years ago. Alongside being a rock and roll trailblazer and revolutionary dancer with legs for days, Tina is most iconic for hits such as ‘Proud Mary’ and “What’s Love Got To Do With It”. With all of the books, movies, magazines, legends, fan accounts and gossip documenting her life, you might believe you already know the crucial details surrounding the ‘Simply the Best’ star’s history. Yet, the reality is, you’ve barely even scratched the surface. 

A new documentary from Academy award-winning directors Dan Linsay and T.J. Martin charts Tina Turner’s entire legacy. Tina covers the star’s childhood and early rise to fame in 1958, her personal and professional struggles, and her incredible ‘80s come-back career. Through in-depth and deeply emotive interviews with friends, family, journalists, colleagues, collaborators and Tina herself, the documentary delves deeps into every phenomenal corner of the star’s life. We journey through her prosperous career and cherished back catalogue of songs, alongside a harrowing amount of personal trauma and adversity —  all of which has forged a female cultural icon like no other.

Born Annie May Bullock, November 1939 in Nutbush Tennesee — the young girl who would become the legendary Tina Turner, rolled with the punches since the very beginning. We move through her tough childhood and difficult parental bonds at a pace before arriving in Club Manhattan, where Tina met the man who would change her life forever—for better and for worse. Only a teenager at the time, a young and impressional Tina longed to prove herself to the man credited with introducing rock and roll to the world. Once Ike Turner discovered the radical power of Tina’s voice and superstar stage presence, the pair married and dedicated their entire existence to making music together. The husband-wife team, publicly appearing as a happy and loving couple, became household names with songs such as “River Deep, Mountain High” and “Nutbush City Limits”’. However, the reality of their relationship was something much more sinister.

Within the documentary, we hear from People Magazine journalist Carl Arrington, who, five years following their pair’s divorce, was the first to break the story of Tina’s experiences of rape, torture and domestic abuse at the hands of Ike Turner. The story was one of the first of its kind, credited with taking the first steps in finally breaking down the stigma surrounding sexual abuse and domestic violence. Yet, most significantly, the account came from Tina herself. Tina reclaimed her agency  —  and in sharing her strength with others —  solidified her name as a cherished an essential voice in popular culture. The documentary paints a liberating picture, aided by Tina’s profoundly moving, minute by minute account of the day she finally found the strength to leave Ike and make her own way into the future. However, although free of her traumatic secret, the past would find other ways to infiltrate Tina’s life.

Having lost everything aside from her name in her divorce, Tina threw herself into her work, appearing on the Vegas strip and a succession of TV panel shows. Still, no matter how much distance she put between herself and her ex-husband, she couldn’t break away from the Ike and Tina scandal. In painfully ignorant archival interviews, we watch as she’s confronted with the memories of her trauma time and time again. ‘Where’s Ike?’ she’s asked on the comedy game show ‘Celebrity Squares’ to cheers and mocking laughter. Tina describes how this constant barrage of ignorance only fuelled her drive to create music again. At the age of forty-four, Tina flew to England — a place accepting of black and female voices working in the sphere of rock and roll — to record her next album. The film gives us insider access to the behind-the-scenes and conceptualisation of Tina’s career-defining album, “Private Dancer”. We follow every detail of the unexpected new wave of success, including tour dates, interviews, a style make-over and the climb to her first Billboard Top 100 with “What’s Love Got To Do With It”. With her success, Tina wrestles the debilitating survivor narrative out of the media’s hands, redefines her entire career and finally makes a significant step away from the traumas of her past. 

Aided by an overwhelming wealth of archival footage spanning over sixty years and a rich spread of insightful, present-day interviewee subjects, Tina is a joyous and dynamic celebration of a modern-day musical icon and cultural legend. Tina Turner redefined the internal structures of the entire music industry and broke down barriers with every song and story. Linsay and Martin’s latest feature is yet another illustrious triumph and personal victory for a woman who can only be described as simply the best.

Dir: Dan Linsay, T.J. Martin

Scr: Dan Linsay, T.J. Martin

Cast: Tina Turner, Angela Bassett, Oprah Winfrey, Carl Arrington

DOP: Dimitri Karakatsanis, Megan Stacey

Country: USA

Year: 2021

Runtime: 118 mins

By Leoni Horton

Leoni Horton is a Film and Culture journalist based in Manchester and the UK and EU Festivals Editor at Film Hounds. She has a MA in Literature and Writing For The Screen and is THE unofficial Safdie Brothers scholar. You can enjoy Leoni's unfunny meme and thirst tweets @inoelshikari

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