LITTLE RICHARD: I AM EVERYTHING

★★★★

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FATHER OF ROCK 'N' ROLL!

SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
By Jess Fenton
18th June 2023

Richard Wayne Penniman was born in 1932 in Macon, Georgia. He was born Black. He was born poor. He was born disabled. He was born queer. He was not raised queer. He was also not born into a musical family. One of 12 children, Richard's parents were strict and religious, with his father being a deacon and a bootlegger on the side who also ran a nightclub - go figure - but it was in church where Richard found his voice. Over time, Richard took that voice from the church choir to the vaudeville stage (where he performed in drag), to the recording studio, to the world stage. He would take inspiration from everyone he crossed paths with, using them as mirrors to show them who he really was - and what he was was flamboyant, charismatic, a true genius, and the inventor of rock 'n' roll.

SWITCH: 'LITTLE RICHARD: I AM EVERYTHING' TRAILER

'Little Richard: I Am Everything' is a long overdue documentary that finally shows the world who Little Richard really was as a person and as a greater figure in this world than any of us ever knew. The film gives him the credit where credit was well and truly due and cements in place, without question, the giant shoulders that everyone who followed him stands on.

Filmmaker Lisa Cortes ('All In: The Fight For Democracy') has pieced together Richard's life through photos, videos, interviews and family members, and like any true artist unappreciated in his own time, she's gathered academics and commentators from today to really fill in the blanks as to his true place in history. Do you, like me, believe that Prince's Super Bowl halftime show was the greatest of all time? Ever been to a Harry Styles concert? How about Elton John? Where do you stand in the Beatles vs The Rolling Stones debate? All of these acts and so many more would look a lot different - or not exist at all - were it not for Little Richard.

Richard sadly see-sawed between worlds, constantly, internally and outwardly struggling between who he was and what he believed. It's tragic, it's powerful and it's so relevant today... still.

Richard's life and journey were extraordinary, highlighted even more so when in periods during his life he returned to religion and fought against his true identity. Religious guilt and condemnation is a powerful thing, especially when it's instilled since childhood. Richard sadly see-sawed between worlds, constantly, internally and outwardly struggling between who he was and what he believed. It's tragic, it's powerful and it's so relevant today... still.

Lisa Cortes has delicately and deliberately laid out the life of a man who had care and compassion for everyone around him, but kept none for himself. There are skeletons and darkness to Little Richard's life that she doesn't shy away from in search of truth, honesty and understanding. It's what he deserves when the world didn't deserve him.

Looking for more Sydney Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
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