Billie Holiday – A Sensation

´52, SWR/arte; SRF, 2015


Her voice was the voice of living inten­si­ty of the soul (in the true sen­se of that great­ly abu­sed word). As a human being she was sweet, sour, kind, mean, generous, pro­fa­ne, loveab­le and impos­si­ble, and nobo­dy who knew her expects to see anyo­ne qui­te like her again.”
(The wri­ter Leo­nard Fea­ther on Bil­lie Holiday)

The­re exist many myths and legends about the Jazz Sin­ger Bil­lie Holi­day — one of the grea­test voices of the last cen­tu­ry. Most of them tell the sto­ry of the tra­gic vic­tim of drugs, alco­hol, men, color,
or the cir­cum­s­tan­ces of her upbrin­ging. To some extent she con­tri­bu­t­ed herself to the­se legends, espe­cial­ly in her auto­bio­gra­phy “Lady Sings the Blues”. In recent years, more and more records and reports have shown a dif­fe­rent pic­tu­re of her. The­se state­ments of con­fi­dants, col­leagues and friends clean up with many of the legends and show a strong per­so­na­li­ty who has been anything but a pitia­ble vic­tim. Bil­lie Holi­day was a strong-wil­led and deter­mi­ned per­son and a very com­plex per­so­na­li­ty who did not cor­re­spond to the clas­sic vic­tim type.
This docu­men­ta­ry takes — on her 100th bir­th­day on April 7, 2015 — some key state­ments of peop­le who knew Bil­lie, as a basis to give a dif­fe­rent sen­se of the natu­re of Bil­lie Holi­day, her music and her life. We also hear state­ments from the jazz sin­gers Cas­san­dra Wil­son, who has just publis­hed a 100th anni­ver­s­a­ry tri­bu­te CD, and Dee Dee Brid­ge­wa­ter, who has play­ed Bil­lie Holi­day in the musi­cal “Lady Day” on Broad­way. We hear the aut­hor Julia Blackburn, who has collec­ted some inte­res­ting state­ments of com­pa­n­ions in her book “With Bil­lie” and the renow­ned Jazz Jour­na­list, jazz his­to­ri­an and for­mer edi­tor of the jazz maga­zi­ne “Down Beat”, Dan Morgenstern.


12th Jeche­on Inter­na­tio­nal Music & Film Fes­ti­val 2016, Jeche­on, South Korea
SWR Doku Fes­ti­val 2017, Stuttgart


Screenplay/Director: Kat­ja Duregger
Direc­tor of Photography: Wolf­gang Leh­ner, Klaus Sturm
Sound: Peter­son Too­ke, Lenin De Losreyes
Film Edi­t­ing + Gra­fic Arts: Vol­ker Gehrke
Sound­de­sign: Pablo Pare­des
Rese­arch: Andi Ueding, Lena Mrach­acz, Kon­rad Ege, Chris­ti­an Füllgraf
Head of Production: Cor­ne­lia Kellers
Com­mis­sio­ning Editor: Harald Let­fuß, SWR
Pro­du­cer: Gerd Haag
Pro­duc­tion: TAG/TRAUM GmbH & Co. KG