Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story

The Hot Docs Festival is taking place in Toronto from April 25 to May 5 and features 168 documentaries from 64 countries with 83 world and international premieres. The topics of these documentaries are 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.

Our first documentary was Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story. Many Toronto locals will at least recognize her name and know the top-level details of her story. Jackie Shane was a transgender R&B and soul singer who rose to fame after starting her performing career in the 1950s in Nashville, Tennesee. The documentary notes a hard upbringing in the Jim Crow South before she joined a local trio as a drummer. To escape the racist and transphobic South, Shane joined a travelling circus, which landed in Cornwall, Ontario (of all places). Shane disembarked there and made her way to Montreal and eventually Toronto, where she found the first glimmers of stardom and personal happiness. The story continues as Shane’s star rises, hitting it big in 1963 with her version of William Bell’s song Any Other Way, containing a lyric she made her own. In the line, “Tell her I’m happy, tell her I’m gay, tell her I wouldn’t have it any other way”,  Shane made the message clear what her intention meant and those who heard the song from behind a closet door found some light within those shadows. Rejecting the starmaker machinery of the era, Shane refused to budge an inch, turning down offers that would put her on the world’s stage but at the cost of hiding her true self. Shane exiled herself from the music business by the early 70s leading to her full transition in Los Angeles. Rumours circulated about her fate, but in actuality, the singer lived a lonely life hidden away from friends, family and fans back in Nashville until she died in 2019. The documentary begins with a twist regarding her family and ends beautifully with footage from a Nashville Pride event for the late singer. Audio from telephone interviews with filmmaker Michael Mabbott along with live recordings are visualized through animation to great effect. Directed along with Lucah Rosenberg-Lee, Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story was produced by those Canadian darlings of music docs, Banger Films.

Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story (Excerpt: Who is Jackie Shane?) from NFB/marketing on Vimeo.

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.