Starring: Sharon Jones, Binky Griptite, Starr Duncan-Lowe and Saundra Williams
Rated: Unrated Documentary/Music
Championed as “Beautiful!” by Tina Hassania at Roger Ebert and “soul-bearing” by Peter DeBruge in Variety, this film is about the battle of Sharon Jones against pancreatic cancer, all while continuing to perform as lead singer with her band, The Dap-Kings.
A soul and funk group based in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, Jones worked diverse jobs, including in corrections, while pursuing her musical career. Sharon Jones openly shares in this documentary that all too often she was told by those in the music industry that she was “too fat, too black, too short and too old.” However, she remained undeterred and became even more determined to make her vision of her life manifest.
Having performed since the 1980s, Sharon Jones released her first record on the Soul Tequila LP by the Soul Providers in 1996 when she was forty years old. Members of the Soul Providers soon joined members of Antibalas and the Mighty Imperials, two Brooklyn-based bands, to form The Dap-Kings.
Known as “Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings”, in 2002, they released their first album, Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. Highly praised by many music lovers, their follow-up projects, Naturally (2005), 100 Days, 100 Nights (2007) and I Learned the Hard Way (2010), showcased their lead in reviving funk and soul music. Jones was often referenced as “The Female James Brown”. Her mother actually knew Brown, “The Godfather of Soul, as both were from Augusta, Georgia. Jones cited that her inspirations range from Sam Cooke, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding to Beyoncé, Erykah Badu, Michael Jackson and Prince.
In 2013, Jones was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery followed by chemotherapy. These conditions caused the delay for the release of the group’s latest project. In 2014, Give the People What They Want was released and Sharon Jones was nominated for her first Grammy Award and the category was “Best R&B Album.
The decision to document her battle and comeback was made and in 2015, Miss Jones! debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. Detailed in the film’s synopsis, it exclaims, “In the most challenging year of her life, Sharon Jones confronts pancreatic cancer. As she struggles to find her health and voice again, the film intimately uncovers the mind and spirit of a powerful woman determined to regain the explosive singing career that eluded her for 50 years.” At this opening, Sharon Jones shared that her cancer had returned and she would again be undergoing chemotherapy.
Directed by two-time Academy Award winning director Barbara Kopple, Miss Sharon Jones! was critically-acclaimed. Patrick Mullen in POV raved that the film was, “An inspiring portrait of how music sustains us and gives us life.” Its accolades also include it being “Opening Night” film of DOC NYC and an “Official Selection” at both the SXSW Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival.
Nominated for thirteen awards, this moving and exhilarating documentary won the following eight awards:
- Critics’ Choice Documentary Award for “Best Song in a Documentary” for “I’m Still Here” – Sharon Jones;
- Critics’ Choice Documentary Award for “Most Compelling Living Subject of a Documentary” – Sharon Jones;
- Lost Weekend Award of the Film Club’s The Lost Weekend for “Best Soundtrack” – Sharon Jones;
- NBR Award of the National Board of Review, USA for “Top Five Documentaries”;
- Sarasota Film Festival’s Audience Award for “Best Documentary” – Barbara Kopple;
- Black Reel Award for “Outstanding Original Song” for “I’m Still Here” – The Dap-Kings
- Cinema Eye Honors Award for “The Unforgettables” – Sharon Jones; and
- River Bend Film Festival’s Blue Fish Award for “Best Documentary” – Barbara Kopple and David Cassidy.
A soundtrack was released by the Daptone label in 2016 to accompany Miss Jones! Extremely well received, it is a compilation of songs from 100 Days, 100 Nights (2007), I Learned the Hard Way (2010) and Give the People Want They Want (2014).