Director: Lisa Cortés
Cast includes: John Waters, Mick Jagger, Tom Jones, Zandria Robinson, Nile Rogers, Nona Hendryx
98 mins / 2023 / USA

Little Richard: I Am Everything shines a clarifying light on the Black, queer origins of rock ’n’ roll, and establishes the genre’s big bang: Richard Wayne Penniman. Testimonials from legendary musicians and cultural figures, Black and queer scholars, Penniman’s family and friends, and interviews with the artist himself all exuberantly reclaim a history that was willfully appropriated by white artists and institutions.

Directed with supreme love and insight by Lisa Cortés, it is the enthralling documentary that Little Richard deserves. It’s a movie that understands, from the inside out, what a great and transgressive artist he was, how his starburst brilliance shifted the whole energy of the culture — but also how the astonishing radical nature of what he did, from almost the moment it happened, got shoved under the rug of the official narrative of rock ‘n’ roll.

If Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis were wild country boys, teasing their audience with a grin of delinquent effrontery, Little Richard was something even more delirious and eruptive — a total stone freak, and a musical fireball of such insane vibrance that you felt he could light up a city. His voice sounded like a saxophone at full cry. The grit and blare of it was nearly superhuman, and you could make a case that the single most ecstatic sound in the history of rock ‘n’ roll was the high notes he would hit and hold with his micro vibrato. Those ecstatic notes echoed through the singing of Paul McCartney and a thousand others.

“I Am Everything” includes the kind of heady commentary from cultural critics that too many of today’s music documentaries leave out. The queer scholars Zandria Robinson and Jason King provide one rich insight after another. To watch this jubilant and essential documentary is to realize he had a talent that no one, least of all himself, could contain.

With: Billy Porter, John Waters, Mick Jagger, Tom Jones, Zandria Robinson, Jason King, Tavia Nyong’o, Nile Rogers, Sir Lady Java, Billy Vera, Nona Hendryx.

This film is F-Rated. The F-Rating is applied to all films which are directed by women and/or written by women. Find out more about F-Rating.

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