2021 features a number of documentaries that, like many of us, had other plans for 2020, after a year that often seemed more fiction than reality. Films about superstars like Rihanna, Billie Eilish and the Beatles that were planned for release last year are now on target for their 2021 debuts.
Some seem to suit the cultural reckoning of the nation with racial inequality, like Questlove’s film about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, while Antoine Fuqua’s film about the NBA shutdown in March speaks explicitly to the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests itself. Here are eight of the most awaited documentaries of 2021, with several release dates still in flux due to logistical problems: From corruption to summer camp: the best documentaries of 2020Read moreRihannaThe long-planned collaboration between director Peter Berg and the multi-award-winning pop star and beauty/fashion mogul was one of the high-profile celebrity films delayed by the pandemic. The as-yet-untitled film promises an intimate, characteristically disarming look at the expansive career of the Barbadian singer, which progressed from her most critically acclaimed album, “Anti” (2016), to launching her own “Fenty,” beauty brand, becoming the first black woman to head LMVH’s luxury line.
Over five years, Berg has reportedly collected more than 1,200 hours of footage, and the cameras are still rolling – “every time we think we’re going to finish the film and release it, she’s doing something, like launching a fashion line like Fenty, or her lingerie line, or her skin care line,” he said in an interview – but he’s aiming for a release date on Amazon in the summer of 2021 (a streaming service a streaming line). The movie Summer of Soul (… Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) The movie Summer of Soul (… Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), which premiered at the (virtual) Sundance Film Festival this year, is the directorial debut of Questlove, a Roots drummer and Tonight Show star. Fittingly, the film discusses the “black Woodstock” Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of concerts that coincided in the summer of 1969 with the more popular (and very white) rock festival 100 miles north. Questlove’s film revisits the festival of black pride and heritage that attracted more than 300,000 participants and featured performances by Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, Nina Simone, BB King and the Staples Sisters, and celebrates its cultural legacy with hours of restored footage that for 50 years had previously been unregulated and unseen in a cellar. Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little BlurryBillie Eilish, who signed her own $25 million contract with Apple TV+ in 2019, sees another lucrative distribution deal for a pandemically delayed music documentary in her own behind-the-fame documentary, The World’s a Little Blurry, released on Feb. 26. The RJ Cutler-directed film follows the dark pop teen queen, now 19, as she produces and tours her 2019 smash album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? The film shows Eilish handling the onslaught of critics (the Grammy awards, the industry hype), global celebrity status (175 million followers on Instagram) and some more mundane teen accomplishments (getting her driver’s license, still living at home with her parents), with her father Patrick O’Connell, mother Maggie Baird and brother and songwriting partner Finneas O’Connell. The two-part HBO series on the golf phenomena, airing on Jan. 10 and 17, traces the 15-time major winner from rising prodigy to untouchable star in the 1990s, from the sex and substance abuse controversy that threatened his career to his 2019 Masters comeback victory. The project, led by Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land, A Private War) and Matthew Hamachek (Amanda Knox), draws on interviews with various people close to Woods, including his former caddy and confidante Steve Williams, English golf star Nick Faldo, biographer Peter McDaniel’s father Earl Woods, his first love Dina Parr, and nightclub manager Rachel Uchitel, whose link with the golfer is Woods does not appear in the film, but it includes unseen footage from his early and high school years behind-the-scenes. MLK/FBITThe film by critically acclaimed archivist Sam Pollard about the FBI’s privacy abuses and abuse campaign against the FBI