Luther: Never Too Much

The Hot Docs Festival wrapped up on May 5 and featured 168 documentaries from 64 countries with 83 world and international premieres. The topics of these documentaries were sorted under the umbrellas of Culture and Creativity, Ideas and Issues, People and Perspectives and Stories From Around the World. As a whole, these documentaries are fascinating glimpses into the people and places on the planet, bringing stories from a ten-kilometre view down the 35mm.

Hot Docs was founded in 1993 by the Documentary Organization of Canada (formerly the Canadian Independent Film Caucus), a national association of independent documentary filmmakers. In 1996, Hot Docs became a separately incorporated organization with a mandate to showcase and support the work of Canadian and international documentary filmmakers and to promote excellence in documentary production.

Hot Docs owns and programs the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, a century-old landmark located in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood and the world’s first and largest documentary cinema.

Sadly, Hot Docs is facing massive budget shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic and fears are this could be the final festival. The organization put out an appeal that can be read here. What can be done by us individuals is to head out this week and weekend (and anytime in the future) to catch an amazing, informative film or two.

The ADDICTED Music Dept. has enjoyed many of the amazing music documentaries the festival has brought each year and this year, we thought we’d cover as many as we can for all you music, documentary and music documentary lovers.

One of the biggest docs this year was Luther: Never Too Much, the story of singer, songwriter, producer and arranger, Luther Vandross. The doc starts with his upbringing in the Bronx and his love of the Supremes. Joining the cast of a little kids’ show called Sesame Street, he made appearances in the first season in 1969-1970. Success came later to Vandross, first through his work with David Bowie on his Young Americans album, contributing vocals and vocal arrangements. The singer established himself as a top commercial vocalist and backup singer. In the early 80s, Vandross launched his solo career, hitting the top of the Billboard R&B charts with 2 songs – Stop to Love and There’s Nothing Better Than Love. Despite his success, the documentary details how the artist suffered the ugliness of segregation within the music industry, showing how black artists were relegated below white artists by record labels, retailers, and radio stations. Throughout the documentary, the subject of Vandross’ weight comes up again and again. His method of hiding and comfort always fell to food. In the tabloid journalism of the 80s and 90s, he was frequently questioned about his weight swings, as if the public needed to know. Another question addressed was his sexuality. In an interview portion of the doc, Luther Vandross says “I won’t give the satisfaction of a denial because that is a submission. I wouldn’t even say that.” in 2017, friend Patti LaBelle confirmed he was gay, claiming he remained quiet on the topic for his female fans. More important than his sexuality was his longing for love, which he addressed in the doc admitting that his song Any Love was autobiographical. After the success of his late career single, Dance With My Father, Vandross suffered a debilitating stroke in 2003. Vandross died on July 1, 2005, due to its complications. Tributes poured in for the star from the many artists he elevated, worked alongside and inspired.

Luther: Never Too Much is a powerful story of an unparalleled artist and powerful voice. Despite his personal struggles, the documentary shows how influential and giving the man was. His rise was due not just to his talent and his drive, but his continuing efforts to overcome his struggles and industry challenges.

Aron Harris
Aron Harris is ADDICTED Magazine's music editor as well as a contributor. As a graphic designer, writer and photographer, you can find his work all over ADDICTED. He also geeks out over watches, pizza, bass guitars and the Grateful Dead.
Aron Harris

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