The documentary directors of Tina Martin and Lindsay


Illustration for article titled Reconsidering the story Tina Turner has been telling for 40 years

Photo: HBO

For a virtuoso performer whose sublime efforts to entertain the masses are telegraphed even in the slightest nuance: articulated micro-movements From her leaping across the stage, the contractions and tension of the muscles in her face changing with each passing second, her lament turning into a grunt, Tina Turner frequently projects a surprising attitude in a new documentary about her life: reluctance. .

“The first interview we did in February 2019, we were sitting down to do the interview and I was like, ‘How are you? How you feel?’ She was like, ‘I don’t want to do this,’ ”Daniel Lindsay said via Zoom recently. Lindsay is one of the directors of Tub, which premieres Saturday on HBO. “I knew he was not referring to the entire documentary, but to the interview. We thought, ‘Let’s start there. Let’s talk about it. ‘

Reluctance has been a motive throughout Turner’s public life following her divorce from Ike Turner, the rock and roll pioneer who she claims abused her horribly for years during their marriage and musical collaboration. As Turner relates in Tub, she was initially moved to tell her story to Persons magazine in 1981 to separate once and for all his image from that of Ike, from whom he finally escaped in 1976. The opposite ended up happening. The story of his flight from Ike Turner to experience the greatest success of his career, ascending to true rock god in the 1980s, has not only defined Turner’s public profile, but has achieved legendary status within the annals of American pop culture.

That story gave Lindsay and her managing partner, TJ Martin, something to think about that other topics in this area might have been missing. The pair are extremely selective about their projects, having won the 2012 Oscar for Best Documentary Film for Undefeated. (The victory made Martin the first black person to win in that category.) “Part of the reason we were so hesitant to sign to direct the film is that these types of films can be, I hope ours is not, the Marvel films of the documentary world: bigger budgets and audience integrated, “Lindsay explained. “We knew we were never going to make a traditional rock documentary, so to speak, where we were just going to analyze their music catalog and talk about Tina as a performer.”

That’s not to say that Turner’s storied career doesn’t make sense. In fact, the film features archival footage of artistic peaks from the Ike and post-Ike eras (“River Deep, Mountain High,” Tuner’s collaboration with Phil Spector on the first field, “What’s Love Got To Do With It ” In a second ). Lindsay and Martin regularly employ montage of still images, some frantically edited, during musical moments, as if they wanted to put as much icon on the screen as possible while reminding you to take it all in, frame by frame. But to make a movie worth watching, they were posed a unique challenge that Turner herself expressed during their first meeting.

“I think his exact words were: ‘There has been a book, a movie and a musical. What the hell are we going to make a documentary for? ‘”Martin recalled, referring to Turner’s 1985 memoir. Me, tina; the 1993 film adaptation of it, What does love have to do with it?; and the most recent Broadway production TINA – The Tina Turner Musical. “We thought, ‘We had the same question. That is why we are here. ‘ To his credit, he broke the ice and created an honest space for us. It was really in those early conversations that we recognized how the trauma of her past is still beneath the surface. He’s always lurking around the corner. “

The project came about as a result of Simon Chinn and Jonathan Chinn’s work with Turner on promotional videos for the Broadway musical. The Chinns pitched the idea for the documentary to Turner and her music executive husband, Erwin Bach, and then asked Lindsay and Martin, who they’ve worked with at the Lightbox production company, if they’d be interested in directing it.

“Once Simon reached out to us to see if we were willing to direct, our hesitation was, first and foremost, are two men the right people to be Tina’s voice, to tell her story?” Martin recalled. “And the second was that we respected Tina immensely, but we weren’t necessarily fans. The latter was probably an advantage for us because when we started to dive in and learn more about her storytelling, we were looking at her through the lens of storytelling and it was all a fitting discovery. “

As for how they reconciled by telling Turner’s story while they were both men, the choice ultimately rested on Turner. “Over time, by spending time with her, I think we built a good relationship and trust with her so that our work was an empathetic conduit for her to filter her narrative,” Martin said. The team, Lindsay noted, consisted of hardly a hot dog party, with the likes of Diane Becker working as a producer and Taryn Gould on the editing team.

Tub Ultimately, it would take about two and a half years to complete. The directors’ first interview with Turner at his palatial estate in Zurich occurred in February 2019. They conducted two three-hour interviews over the course of two days. “Usually with these celebrity-based documents, there is a contract in terms of how much time they are going to give you. We weren’t supposed to get much more than that, but to Tina’s credit, once she started to dive into the process, I think she got a little excited, “said Martin, who described Turner as” this healthy combination of unique energy. , extremely warm and extremely honest. ”

“If she doesn’t like your shoes, she’ll say, ‘Why are you wearing those shoes?’” He added. “But in the most loving way, like, ‘I think you can do better.’

“There is a humility in her,” Lindsay said. “Don’t get me wrong, she is still a star. It’s annoying when people say celebrities are down to earth, but I don’t know how else to describe it. She makes you feel very comfortable. “

They based their framework on Turner’s frequently stated fatigue regarding his narrative. TubSo it’s a biography that deals with both the events that happened and the act of sharing them. “There’s something to explore in her story, which we finally did in this meta way like, ‘What does Tina think about the Tina Turner story?’” Lindsay said. “That was not only interesting in that world. We also thought it said something else about media and the way we define people as symbols and ideas. That piece of meat on the bone is what made us say, ‘This is a real movie.’

But if we take Turner’s word for it, she essentially dragged herself through her storytelling to Persons and then to journalist Kurt Loder (who co-wrote Me, tina) and then suffered the release of What does love have to do with it? (at a press conference, shown in Tub via stock footage, he said he couldn’t bear to sit and watch it), isn’t the same thing happening all over again? Aren’t Lindsay and Martin guilty of putting Turner through more of the hells she spends so much time denouncing?

“That is a very strange line to walk: Are we doing the same? I know we felt comfortable with the way we worked with her to make sure we weren’t doing the same in our process with her, ”Lindsay said. “Honestly, it got too much to articulate exactly and it’s like, okay, I guess that’s the strange contradiction in this movie. We were really looking forward to showing Tina the movie, and we even talked about whether we shouldn’t show her certain parts. In the end, she said, ‘No, I want to see everything.’ She really liked the movie. She told us that it was accurate and that she felt it was the truth of her experience. But she also said that it wasn’t that difficult for her to look at how she thought it was going to be. That speaks, in some way at least, of what it says at the end: there is an acceptance of some of this. “

Towards the end of the filming of the documentary, it became clear that it could be Turner’s last goodbye to the public. Of course, he’s said goodbye before: his 1990 Foreign Affair trip was subtitled The Farewell Tour. He would go on to release four more, concluding with Tina !: 50th Anniversary Tour from 2008-9. But at 81, Turner seems to have gotten over it more than ever. In the images of her presence at the premiere of her Broadway show, she declares herself ready to say goodbye.

“It was palpable and she talked a lot about her hesitancy to attend the musical,” Martin said. “She really deeply appreciates the celebration of her life, but being the person of Tina Turner, being the symbol of Tina Turner, is really exhausting for her. From the way he was expressing himself on the way to the premiere, it started to enter our brains that, although we have taken this very particular point of view in the film, it will possibly be a little closer to his last word. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if five years from now, Tina comes out with another album. That’s Tina Turner. “

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