TIFF Docs

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami

Sophie Fiennes

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Filmed over the course of a decade, the new documentary from director Sophie Fiennes (The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology) offers a stylish and unconventional look at the Jamaican-born model, singer, and New Wave icon.

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Grace Jones, the statuesque Jamaican model-turned-singer, actress and icon has made a career performing versions of herself. But who is the real Grace Jones behind the masks and makeup? This film moves between her personae onstage and off. Don't expect a traditional music biography with sit-down interviews and archival footage. This treatment is as stylish and unconventional as its subject. In the subtitle, "bloodlight" refers to the studio signal for recording and "bami" is a Jamaican flatbread. They stand for art and life.

Filmmaker Sophie Fiennes has previously made films about a philosopher, a dancer, and an artist. Each time, she conjures a fresh style for the material. (One of her early documentaries, Hoover Street Revival, profiled Jones' brother Noel, the Los Angeles preacher). With Grace Jones, filmed over 10 years, we gain entry to her private spaces: her family in Jamaica, in the studio with long-time collaborators Sly & Robbie, and in Paris with her one-time image maker and lover, Jean-Paul Goude. In negotiations glimpsed on camera, she demonstrates that you wouldn't want to go against her. "Sometimes you have to be a high-flying bitch." Yet we also catch her in sweet and vulnerable moments.

Interspersed throughout the film are performances from a 2016 concert staged for Fiennes' camera. Strutting the stage like an Amazon in heels, Jones performs songs such as "Slave to the Rhythm," "Love is the Drug" and "Amazing Grace" with multiple costume changes. This might be the first documentary with a credit for Corset Designer. Whatever mysteries she conceals, one thing is for certain: we can't take our eyes off her.

THOM POWERS

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