Review: ‘Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil,’ starring Demi Lovato

March 17, 2021

by Carla Hay

Demi Lovato in “Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil” (Photo courtesy of OBB Media)

“Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil”

Directed by Michael D. Ratner

Culture Representation: The four-part docuseries “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil” features a racially diverse group of people (Latino, white and African American) of mostly people in the entertainment industry, including Demi Lovato, discussing her life and career, particularly from 2018 to 2020.

Culture Clash: Lovato, who is a recovering drug addict, relapsed and had a near-fatal overdose in 2018, and she says that she no longer believes that complete drug abstinence is the best method of recovery for her.

Culture Audience: “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in stories about how celebrities cope with addiction and trauma.

Demi Lovato in “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil” (Photo courtesy of YouTube Originals)

Singer/actress Demi Lovato is well-known for revealing a lot of painful and unflattering aspects of her life, so it should come as no surprise that her four-part YouTube docuseries “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil” has a confessional tone to it. The docuseries had its world premiere at the 2021 South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival. Among other things, Lovato goes into details about what she experienced before and after her near-fatal drug overdose at her Los Angeles home in July 2018. (She has since moved from that house because of the bad memories.) She also reveals publicly for the first time that she’s a rape survivor and how the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine led to her very quick and ultimately failed engagement to actor Max Ehrich.

Directed by Michael D. Ratner, “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil” has much more disturbing revelations than Lovato’s 2017 YouTube documentary film “Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated.” There’s a trigger warning at the beginning of “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil” because it contains graphic talk of sexual assault, her drug use and eating disorders. She goes into details about what happened before and after her overdose of heroin laced with Fentanyl.

Lovato says that the drug dealer who supplied the drugs also sexually assaulted her and left her for dead. She also reveals that when she was 15, she lost her virginity by being raped by someone she worked with in her Disney Channel days. Lovato doesn’t name either of her alleged rapists, but she says that when she reported her underage rape to adults, nothing happened to her alleged rapist. And she claims that she’s managing her addiction problems by drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. That’s not a good sign that she’s on the road to a healthy recovery.

It’s a big contrast to “Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated,” where her most personal revelation was that she’s openly living her life as a member of the LGTBQ community. (The movie had scenes of her discussing her attempts to find love on online dating sites.) Lovato refuses to label her sexuality, and she will only describe herself as “queer” or “not straight.” “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil” shows that although Lovato claims to be in a much better emotional place than she was in 2018, she’s still struggling with the idea that her recovery from addiction means that she has to completely abstain from drugs and alcohol.

She admits to drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana “in moderation,” even though she’s said in many interviews that she’s an alcoholic and drug addict. Although she talks a lot about the drugs that she’s used and/or been addicted to over the years, in “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil” she leaves out any mention of her alcoholism. And that omission is probably because she keeps repeating in the documentary that she’s tired of other people controlling her life and telling her what she can and cannot put in her body.

Ever since former Disney Channel star Lovato first went to rehab in 2010, at the age 18, she has publicly talked about her recovery from a variety of issues, including drug addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia), self-harming (cutting) and bipolar disorder. In “Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated,” she repeated the claim that she was clean and sober since 2012. And in 2018, during her “Tell Me You Love Me” tour, she was filming another documentary about herself, until her drug overdose resulted in shutting down production of that untitled documentary, which was permanently shelved.

“Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil” has some clips from that never-seen-before 2018 documentary that shows a seemingly happy Lovato on tour. But as is often the case with entertainers who are drug addicts, they are very skilled at hiding dark sides of their lives. In “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil,” Lovato says of her shelved 2018 biographical film: “In that documentary, I was allowing the cameras to see the tip of the iceberg.”

“Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil” opens with Lovato backstage during that 2018 tour, in footage that was taken one month before her overdose. She’s on the phone with her mother, Dianna De La Garza. Her mother gushes, “Demi, that was the best show you’ve ever done! It’s only going to get better from here.” Lovato gives a small smile but there’s some sadness in her eyes.

There’s also a clip from that a concert earlier on that 2018 tour, with the footage showing Demi being congratulated on stage by opening acts DJ Khaled and Kehlani for her sixth “sober birthday,” to celebrate her being clean and sober for the past six years. On the surface, Lovato looked healthy and happy. But in “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil,” she now confesses that she relapsed later that night.

Lovato says, “I picked up a bottle of red wine that night and it wasn’t even 30 minutes before I called someone that had drugs on them … I’m surprised that I didn’t OD that night. I ended up at a party and ran into my old drug dealer from six years before. That night I did drugs I had never done before.”

According to Lovato, she did a dangerous mix of methamphetamine, Ecstasy, alcohol and OxyContin. “That alone should’ve killed me,” Lovato adds. She also confesses that during this relapse that lasted for months, she tried crack cocaine and heroin for the first time.

The first time she went to rehab in 2010, Lovato says that she was addicted to cocaine and Xanax. Years later, when she turned to crack cocaine and heroin (which she usually smoked, not injected), Lovato says in the documentary that she was trying to get the same “upper/downer” combination feeling that she had with cocaine and Xanax. “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil” includes a photo identified as Lovato on crack for the first time and a photo of her while she was smoking heroin.

Lovato says she quickly became addicted to crack and heroin, but she was able to hide these addictions from most of the people who were close to her. Her immediate family members are interviewed in the documentary: mother Dianna De La Garza; stepfather Eddie De La Garza; older sister Dallas Lovato; and younger half-sister Madison De LaGarza. All of them say some variation of how Lovato is very good at keeping secrets and pretending that everything is just fine. “There’s a lot that the public don’t know,” says her stepfather Eddie, who is interviewed while sitting on a couch with his wife Dianna.

Demi’s parents got divorced when she was 2 years old. For years, she has been open about how her biological father Patrick Lovato struggled with mental illness (bipolar disorder, schizophrenia) and drug addiction, and their relationship was fractured for a very long time. Patrick died of cancer in 2013.

In “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil,” she talks about how she still feels trauma over her troubled relationship with her father, whom she says abused her mother Dianna. Demi also says that she feels terrible about how her father died alone. His body, which wasn’t discovered for several days, was so decomposed that there couldn’t be an open casket at his funeral. Demi says that her biggest fear was that he would die alone, and she says she’s still haunted by guilt over it.

As for what led to her relapse and overdose in 2018, Demi comments: “Anytime you suppress a part of yourself, it’s going to overflow. Ultimately, that’s what happened to me in a lot of areas of my life. And it led to my overdose, for sure.” She adds later in the documentary: “I was miserable. I snapped.”

In addition to the issues of abandonment that she had with her father, Demi says she believes that the beauty pageants she entered as a child also had a negative effect on her: “My self-esteem was completely damaged by those beauty pageants.” Demi says that her eating disorders began as a direct result of the pressure she felt to be thin and pretty for the pageants.

Her mother Dianna says in the documentary about Demi’s childhood traumas: “I didn’t know that she needed to work with a professional to work through some of that.” In a separate interview, Demi says, “I crossed the line in the world of addiction. It’s interesting that it took a quarantine to work on this trauma stuff I’ve never really taken the time to dig deep and do the work on.”

To her credit, Demi doesn’t sugarcoat the very real and permanent health damage that her overdose caused: “I had three strokes. I had a heart attack. I suffered brain damage from the strokes. I can’t drive anymore. I have blind spots in my vision. When I pour a glass of water, I’ll totally miss the cup because I can’t see it anymore. I’ve also had pneumonia because I asphyxiated and multiple organ failure.”

What happened the night of the overdose has been reported in many media outlets, but the story in this documentary is told by Demi and some other people who were with her in the 24-hour period before and after her overdose. On the evening of July 23, 2018, Demi had been celebrating the birthday of Dani Vitale, who was Demi’s choreographer/creative director at the time.

Demi, Vitale and some other friends went out to nightclubs before heading back to Demi’s house. (The documentary includes phone footage of Vitale and Demi doing a choreographed dance routine on the rooftop.) Vitale, who is interviewed in the documentary, says that she didn’t know that Demi had been using drugs at that time.

That night, Demi begged Vitale to stay overnight at the house, but Vitale declined because she had to go home and feed her dogs and had to get up early the next morning. However, Vitale says as she was driving away from the house with a friend, she told the friend that she had a strange feeling that something wasn’t right. Ultimately, Vitale says that she didn’t stay because of her other obligations and she didn’t want to treat Demi like a child who needed a babysitter.

Demi says that when she was alone in the house, she called her drug dealer and spent the rest of the night doing drugs with him. The documentary includes blurry video surveillance footage of him leaving her house that morning, a few hours before Demi was found unconscious and the ambulance was called. Police later decided not to arrest him for his involvement in this overdose.

Jordan Jackson, a woman who was Demi’s assistant at the time, was the one who found Demi naked, unconscious and surrounded by vomit in Demi’s bed the next morning on July 24, 2018. “There was one point where she turned blue. Her whole body turned blue. I was like, ‘She’s dead for sure,'” Jackson says in the documentary. “It was the craziest thing I had ever seen.”

When Demi woke up at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, she was legally blind for a short period of time. She didn’t even recognize her younger sister Madison, who chokes up with emotion in the documentary when she remembers that moment: “She looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘Who is that?’ That’s something you never want to hear your sister say.”

Cedars-Sinai neurologist Dr. Shouri Lahiri, who sits next to Demi while he’s interviewed in the documentary, remembers that her oxygen levels were “dangerously low and trending down.” Demi also was put on dialysis to clean her blood, and the tubing had to be stuck through her neck. “It was like a horror movie,” as Dianna De La Garza describes it.

Demi is seated next to Dr. Lahiri when he talks about her hospital treatment. He says he didn’t know she why she was famous until about a week after he became her doctor, when he looked her up on the Internet. In the documentary, Dr. Lahiri mentions that he avoided looking up the information earlier because he didn’t want Demi’s celebrity status to affect his medical decisions about her. It’s kind of hard to believe that while she was in the hospital, he didn’t know for the first several days why she was famous, considering all the media coverage about her overdose.

Demi’s stepfather Eddie De La Garza gives a lot of praise to the hospital doctors who helped Demi with her recovery. But no one (not even Demi) is seen or heard in the documentary explicitly thanking Jackson, the person who found Demi and made the crucially important decision to call 911. Jackson admits in her documentary interview that she was afraid that calling 911 would bring a lot of negative publicity for Demi, but Jackson did the right thing and called anyway. Part of the 911 call is played in the documentary, and Jackson is heard asking the 911 operator if the ambulance could not turn on any sirens when it arrived at the house. However, the operator said that there would be ambulance sirens, and 911 operators have no control over that.

Demi says in the documentary, “I’m really lucky to be alive. My doctors said that I had five to 10 minutes [to live before I was found]. Had my assistant not come in, I wouldn’t be here today.” It would’ve been nice for Demi to directly and publicly thank Jackson in the documentary. If Demi did thank her while filming this documentary, it didn’t make it into the movie. And based on the “bare it all” tone of this film, a moment like that wouldn’t be edited out of the film if this thank you really happened while filming.

The documentary also shows that Vitale’s career and reputation were damaged by this overdose, because she was wrongfully blamed for it and wrongfully identified as being a drug buddy of Demi’s. Vitale says she doesn’t do drugs, but she was bullied and harassed by many of Demi’s fans who believed that Vitale was the one who supplied the drugs that Demi took that night. Vitale lost clients because of the overdose scandal. Demi says that her fans who harassed Vitale went too far.

In the documentary, while Vitale is getting her hair and makeup done for the interview, Demi is shown going into the room, hugging Vitale, and telling her that she’s sorry that she didn’t come forward sooner to clear Vitale’s name, but she was still in recovery at the time. Demi also says that she hopes that the documentary will help Vitale set the record straight that Vitale had nothing to do with Demi’s overdose. They seem to be friendly with each other, but it’s clear that Vitale doesn’t want to risk going through this experience with Demi again.

During her interview, Vitale tears up with emotion when she talks about the fallout from Demi’s overdose: “It was the hardest thing I ever had to deal with in my life. I just wanted [Demi] to live … I lost all my teaching jobs. No one wanted to bring their kid to an apparent heroin dealer teacher. I lost all the artists I was working with. No one wanted to deal with the drama … I had to rethink my whole future, all because of someone else’s decision.”

After recovering from her overdose, Demi says she decided she no longer wanted to have a team of people controlling what she ate or people checking up on her as if she would relapse at any moment. As an example, she says that for her birthdays, her previous management team would only allow her to have watermelon cake. After she fired that management team, Demi says one of the ways she celebrated her freedom from other people telling her what to eat was by having three cakes on her birthday.

After getting rid of her previous management, Demi asked Scooter Braun (who’s most famous for being Justin Bieber’s manager) to become her personal manager. Braun, who is an executive producer of “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil,” is interviewed in the documentary and says that he was skeptical about representing Demi until he met her in person and she won him over. During contract negotiations, Demi says she relapsed and was truthful about it to Braun. Demi says she was sure that after this confession, Braun wouldn’t want to represent her.

But the opposite happened. Braun says that rather than distancing himself from Demi because of the relapse, he wanted to help her. He says his reaction was, “As long as you tell me the truth, we’ll work through it.” Braun also says, “She didn’t need a manager. She needed a friend.”

Demi didn’t get rid of everyone on her business team after the overdose. She gives a lot of credit to her longtime business manager Glenn Nordlinger and head of security/chief of staff Max Lea for helping her through tough times. Nordlinger and Lea are both interviewed in the documentary. Nordlinger says it was his idea to get Demi checked into the Cirque Lodge addiction treatment center in Orem, Utah, for her post-overdose rehab. Demi is seated next to Lea and Nordlinger during some of her interviews, and she often keeps her head lowered, as if she’s still ashamed of what they know about her.

Two other people who’ve remained in Demi’s inner circle and are interviewed in the documentary are Sirah Mitchell (a hip-hop artist) and Matthew Scott Montgomery (an actor), who are each described in the documentary as Demi’s “best friend.” Mitchell is also described as Demi’s “former sober coach.” Mitchell and Montgomery, who were not with Demi on the night that she overdosed, profess unwavering loyalty to Demi. They both say that they knew that Demi was doing heroin and other drugs in the weeks leading up to the overdose, but they say that Demi ignored their concerns and there was nothing they could do about it.

Mitchell and Montgomery seem to be among Demi’s biggest cheerleaders, but they also come across as enablers who will say what she wants to hear so she won’t cut them out of her life. For example, Mitchell and Montgomery make vague excuses for why they’re going along with Demi’s plan to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana as part of her “recovery” from alcoholism and drug addiction. By now, these friends should know that when drug addicts/alcoholics think they can handle drugs and alcohol, that’s still being in the sickness of denial.

As for Demi’s family members, they all say that based on their experiences with Demi, they know that an addict can only truly recover when the addict is willing to stop what’s causing their addiction of their own free will, not because other people are pressuring them to do it. Demi says that the first time she went to rehab, she was forced to go because she was told that she wouldn’t be able to see her sister Madison again if Demi didn’t get rehab treatment. In the documentary, Demi notes the “full circle” irony that after she woke up from her overdose, she literally couldn’t see Madison because of Demi’s temporary blindness.

Demi’s case manager Charles Cook is the one of the few people interviewed in the movie to warn viewers that Demi’s way of handling her addiction is not going to work for everyone. He chooses his words carefully, so as not to offend her, but it’s pretty obvious that he’s conflicted in endorsing Demi’s decision to continue to drink alcohol and use marijuana. Cook and Demi both say that addiction recovery doesn’t have a “one size fits all” solution, and Demi is trying to figure out what works best for her.

The documentary includes interviews with some celebrities who know Demi and have worked with her, including recovering addict/alcoholic Elton John. He is blunt when he comments on addicts/alcoholics who think they can still use their addiction substances as part of their recovery: “Moderation doesn’t work.” However, he praises Demi by saying: “She’s human and she’s adorable and she’s brave.”

Christina Aguilera and Will Ferrell also say good things about Demi. Aguilera says, “She’s just no bullshit when it comes to her spirit and her energy and her laughter.” Lovato and Aguilera teamed up for the duet “Fall in Line,” which was on Aguilera’s 2018 album “Liberation.” The song was also released as a single.

Ferrell says he was inspired to put Demi in his 2020 Netflix comedy movie “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” after seeing her emotionally perform “Anyone” at the 2020 Grammy Awards. The Grammy show was her first high-profile performance after her overdose, and she followed it up with another critically acclaimed performance at Super Bowl LIV, where she sang a powerful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Clips of both performances are in the movie, as well as snippets of her performing on tour in 2018 and in the recording studio. Demi says that she wrote and recorded “Sober” while she was in the throes of addiction to crack and heroin. And she mentions that her song “Dancing With the Devil” is one of the rawest, soul-baring songs she’s ever written about her addiction. Braun says, “In the studio, Demi is in her happy place.”

Demi describes her brief engagement to Ehrich in 2020 as part of their whirlwind and unconventional romance. Most of their courtship happened when they moved in with her mother and stepfather to quarantine with them during the coronavirus pandemic. Demi and Ehrich dated for just six months before calling it quits. After the breakup, he went on social media and gave interviews saying that he was blindsided and treated unfairly by Demi.

In the documentary, Demi says that she and Ehrich probably wouldn’t have gotten engaged so quickly if they hadn’t quarantined together. And although she doesn’t divulge the full details of their breakup, Demi reiterates what she’s already said publicly: She says she found out that Ehrich didn’t have the right intentions in their relationship. The documentary has selfie video footage of a forlorn-looking Demi after the breakup, fretting to the camera that she won’t find anyone to love her.

Demi has this to say about her love life at the time she filmed this documentary: “I feel like I’m too queer in my life to marry a man right now.” She describes her outlook: “Life is fluid, and I’m fluid, and that’s all I know.”

In addition to dealing with her physical health problems as a result of the overdose, Demi says she has the psychological trauma of being sexually assaulted. She has this to say about the sexual violation from her drug dealer: “When they found me, I was naked, blue. I was literally left for dead after he took advantage of me. I was literally discarded and abandoned.”

“When I woke up in the hospital, they asked if I had consensual sex,” Demi says in one of her documentary interviews. “There was one flash that I had of him on top of me. I saw the flash, and I said, ‘Yes’ [in answer to the question if the sex was consensual]. It wasn’t until a month after my overdose that I realized, ‘Hey, you weren’t in any state of mind to make a consensual decision.’ That kind of trauma doesn’t go away overnight, and it doesn’t go away in the first few months of rehab either.”

Demi reveals that instead of staying away from the drug dealer that she says raped her, she actually contacted him again when she relapsed after her overdose. And she says that when they had sex again, she wanted to be the one in control. Instead, Demi says this “revenge sex” made her feel worse.

And she also says it was history repeating itself because something similar happened with the person she says raped her when she was 15: “When I was a teenager, I was in a very similar situation. I lost my virginity in rape. I called that person back a month later and tried to make it right by being in control. All it did was make me feel worse.”

In the documentary, Demi doesn’t name her alleged rapists, but the drug dealer who admitted he was the one who supplied the drugs on the night of the overdose already gave tabloid interviews after he found out that he wouldn’t be arrested for supplying her the drugs. His name is already out there in the public. And in at least one of his interviews, he claimed that Demi was his sex partner in a “friends with benefits” situation.

As for the guy whom Demi says raped her when she was 15, she drops some big hints about who he is. “I was part of that Disney crowd that publicly said they were waiting until marriage.” She says in the documentary that this virginity image was a lie for her and her alleged rapist, which obviously implies that he was part of that “Disney crowd” too.

Commenting on how she lost her virginity, Demi says: “I didn’t have the romantic first time. That was not it for me. That sucked. Then I had to see this person all the time so I stopped eating and coped in other ways.”

Then she takes a breath and says, “Fuck it. I’m gonna say it.” She says that her #MeToo moment came when she reported the rape to adults (whom she does not name in the documentary), but her alleged rapist “never got in trouble for it. They never got taken out of the movie they were in. I always kept it quiet because I’ve always had something to say. I don’t know, I’m tired of opening my mouth. Here’s the tea.”

Just like many people with #MeToo stories, Demi says she’s going public with her truth to help give other people the courage to do the same. “I’m coming forward with what happened to me because everyone it happens to should absolutely speak their voice.” She also says, “At the end of the day, I’m responsible for my life choices and only hold myself accountable. And the last two years have been about me doing the work to identify and confront those traumas, so I can be my best self and truly be happy.”

The problem with these types of “confessions of a famous addict” is that they usually have the celebrity confessing that in the past, they put on a fake front of being happy and/or sober in public, but they were really miserable and/or relapsing in private. Then they usually end the documentary by saying they’re doing much better now. But it can be hard for people to believe that, when the celebrity has already admitted that they’re skilled at pretending that their life is better than it really is.

Demi says in the “Dancing With the Devil” documentary that when she made the “Simply Complicated” documentary, she was really miserable and pretended at the time that she happy. Is there eventually going to be another “confession” from Demi where she will say that she was lying in this “Dancing With the Devil” documentary too? It’s a vicious cycle where people aren’t going to know what to believe.

Another problem that people tend to have with these celebrity “tell-alls” is they usually come out at around the same time that the celebrity has a new project to promote. And it makes people wonder how much of this pain is being used to market something that the celebrity wants to sell. Sure enough, the documentary includes studio footage and video clips to promote Demi’s seventh studio album “Dancing with the Devil … The Art of Starting Over,” which is due out on April 2, 2021, the same week as when this docuseries’ last episode is released on YouTube.

Most addicts and alcoholics don’t get to profit from selling their stories. And there’s a lot of denial going on in the documentary when Demi, who spent years telling the world that she’s an alcoholic, now says she can handle drinking alcohol in moderation. Did she not learn anything in rehab?

Although there are website addresses and hotline phone numbers listed in the documentary as resources for people who want to get more information on how to get help for addiction or surviving sexual trauma, the mixed messages that Demi gives in her “Dancing With the Devil” documentary can actually confuse people. She does briefly acknowledge that she’s luckier than most addicts, because she can afford top-notch rehab treatment and a team of people who can get her whatever she asks for because she’s paying them to do it. But that acknowledgement rings hollow because she’s basically saying, “I know I can afford to go to the highest-priced rehab centers in the world, but I’m going to indulge in my addictive substances anyway, just because I feel like it.”

However, people who are not gullible fans can see the documentary for what it is: It shows the difficulty of overcoming addiction and how celebrities are surrounded by “yes” people who will say what the celebrity wants to hear so that they can stay in the celebrity’s inner circle. If there’s any meaningful takeaway from “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil” it’s that if celebrities want to tell the world their truth, they should summon the courage to have people in their lives who will tell them the truth. And when it comes to addiction to alcohol and drugs, they can start with the basic fundamentals of rehab, which is that an alcoholic/drug addict isn’t doing enough real work to get clean and sober if that alcoholic/drug addict is still drinking and drugging.

YouTube Originals will premiere “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil” on Demi Lovato’s YouTube channel on March 23, 2021.

We Are One: A Global Film Festival: programming lineup announced

May 26, 2020

 

“And She Could Be Next” (Photo courtesy of PBS)

The following is a press release from Tribeca Enterprises and YouTube:

Tribeca Enterprises and YouTube announced today the programming slate for We Are One: A Global Film Festival, which will feature over 100 films co-curated by 21 prolific festivals, hailing from 35 countries, in addition to talks, VR content and musical performances. The 10-day digital event will celebrate global voices, elevate films that have the power to create change and bring audiences from around the world together to create meaningful connections. Assembling some of the world’s most talented artists, storytellers and curators around a central effort to provide entertainment and offer relief in the form of supporting organizations responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will run exclusively on YouTube May 29 – June 7 at YouTube.com/WeAreOne.

We Are One: A Global Film Festival will give audiences an opportunity to experience different cultures through an artistic lens – each official selection was handpicked for inclusion to highlight the singularities of each participating festival, while also providing a voice to filmmakers on a global stage. Many of these titles will have significant debuts at the festival, with programming consisting of over 100 films, including 13 world premieres, 31 online premieres, and five international online premieres.

A truly international festival, the programming will represent over 35 countries and will include 23 narrative and eight documentary features, 57 narrative and 15 documentary short films, 15 archived talks along with four festival exclusives and five VR programming pieces.

Notable film presentations will include Ricky Powell: The Individualista documentary about legendary street photographer Powell featuring interviews with Natasha Lyonne and LL Cool J; the online premiere of Eeb Allay Ooo!a unique satire about professional “monkey repellers” and winner of the Mumbai Film Festival’s Golden Gateway Award; and the world premiere of Iron Hammera compelling documentary feature directed by Joan Chen about legendary Chinese Olympic volleyball star Jenny Lang Ping, a true trailblazer who forged connections across the globe. Audiences will have access to over 50 narrative and documentary shorts with exciting entries such as the world premiere of Japanese narrative short The Yalta Conference Online, created exclusively for the festival by Director Koji Fukada; the global premiere of the Third Eye Blind documentary short Motorcycle Drive By, as well as the first short pieces made by Dreamworks Animation, BilbyMarooned and Bird KarmaEpisodic programming features the world premiere of Losing Alice, an Israeli female-led neo-noir psychological TV thriller and And She Could Be Nexta two part documentary series on the experiences of women of color running for office, including Stacey Abrams and Rashida Tlaib.

We Are One: A Global Film Festival will host a number of specially-curated talks, both archived from past festivals and brand new discussions, that will offer viewers a chance to revisit important moments in film. Talks will feature Francis Ford Coppola with Steven Soderbergh, Song Kang-ho and Bong Joon-ho, Guillermo del Toro, Jane Campion and Claire Denis. 360 VR selections will feature Emmy-nominated documentary Traveling While Black and Atlas V, a sci-fi narrative starring Bill Skarsgard, as well as additional titles with notable talent including John Legend, Oprah Winfrey and Lupita Nyong’o. There will also be special musical performances, including a 30-minute DJ set by Questlove.

“We are so excited to share the combined efforts of our festival partners and YouTube with the world this week,” said Tribeca Enterprises and Tribeca Film Festival Co-Founder and CEO Jane Rosenthal. “Together, we were able to curate a compelling slate of programming that succinctly reflects the subtle variations in style that make each festival so special. We Are One: A Global Film Festival will offer audiences an opportunity to not only celebrate the art of film, but the unique qualities that make each story we watch so memorable.”

“One of the beautiful things about films and other visual content is the ability to tell stories and bring people together, no matter where they live or where they’re from. This is a phenomenon we’ve seen at YouTube throughout the years but especially today, as people look to connect and be entertained,” said Robert Kyncl, Chief Business Officer, YouTube. “The programming coordinated by Tribeca Enterprises for We Are One: A Global Film Festival has that magical ability to transport viewers from all around the world to a special moment in time, through the unique lens that our esteemed festival partners bring.”

The global festival will include programming curated by and unique to the identity of all participating festival partners, including: Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Guadalajara International Film Festival, International Film Festival & Awards Macao (IFFAM), International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), Jerusalem Film Festival, Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI), Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Marrakech International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, San Sebastian International Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, and Venice Film Festival.

“Cinema is not only a collective work, but also a shared experience. In these times of social distancing, the spirit of cooperation and a sense of community are needed more than ever before. Therefore, we are happy to participate in the We Are One initiative. We wish all those wonderful artists that their audiences will be able to see their work on the big screen again soon,” said the Berlinale Director Duo Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian.

“We are honored and happy to join We Are One, as a sign of friendship and solidarity for our friends of Tribeca, at the same time offering to the worldwide audience a taste of what we do in Venice in order to support new filmmakers concretely,” added Venice Film Festival Director Alberto Barbera.

True to its mission, We Are One: A Global Film Festival will seek to bring artists, creators and curators together around an international event that celebrates the exquisite art of storytelling. In doing so, it will aim to provide not only solace and entertainment for audiences during a time when it’s needed most, but also opportunities for these individuals to give back through donations to the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, UNHCR, Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, Leket Israel, GO Foundation and Give2Asia, among others. Audiences will be able to donate to COVID-19 relief efforts through a donate button or link on every film page.

The full festival schedule is available at www.weareoneglobalfestival.com.

About Tribeca Enterprises

Tribeca Enterprises is a multi-platform storytelling company, established in 2003 by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. Tribeca provides artists with unique platforms to expand the audience for their work and broadens consumer access to experience storytelling, independent film, and media. The company operates a network of entertainment businesses including the Tribeca Film Festival; the Tribeca TV Festival; and its branded entertainment production arm, Tribeca Studios.

About YouTube

Launched in May 2005, YouTube allows billions of people to discover, watch, and share originally-created videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small. YouTube is a Google company.

About We Are One

The global festival will include programming curated by and unique to the identity of all participating festival partners, including: Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Guadalajara International Film Festival, International Film Festival & Awards Macao (IFFAM), International Film Festival Rotterdam, Jerusalem Film Festival, Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI), Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Marrakech International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, San Sebastián International Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, and Venice Film Festival.

All programming will be screened globally on YouTube at no cost. Audiences will be able to follow along via scheduling listed on official We Are One channels with a full festival schedule at www.weareoneglobalfestival.com.

We Are One: A Global Film Festival inaugural event features partnerships with YouTube and several film festivals, including Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, Cannes, Toronto and London

April 27, 2020

 

The following is a press release from We Are One: A Global Film Festival:

Tribeca Enterprises and YouTube jointly announced today We Are One: A Global Film Festival, an unprecedented 10-day digital film festival exclusively on YouTube, bringing together an international community of storytellers to present festival programming for free to audiences around the world. Set to begin on May 29, 2020, on YouTube.com/WeAreOne, the festival will feature programming curated by the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Guadalajara International Film Festival, International Film Festival & Awards Macao (IFFAM), Jerusalem Film Festival, Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI), Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Marrakech International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, San Sebastian International Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, and moKarlovy Vary International Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Marrakech International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, San Sebastian International Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Venice Film Festival and more, immersing audiences in stories from around the world and providing a voice for filmmakers on a global stage.

 Core to the DNA of film festivals is the belief that artists and creators have the power to bring people together and create meaningful connections during a time when the world needs it most. Through We Are One: A Global Film Festival, audiences will not only get a peek into different cultures through a new lens, they’ll be able to support local communities by directly donating to organizations helping the relief efforts for those affected by COVID-19. The festival will benefit the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as local relief partners in each region.

“We often talk about film’s uniquely powerful role in inspiring and uniting people across borders and differences to help heal the world. All of the world needs healing right now,” said Tribeca Enterprises and Tribeca Film Festival Co-Founder and CEO Jane Rosenthal. “We Are One: A Global Film Festival unites curators, artists and storytellers to entertain and provide relief to audiences worldwide. In working with our extraordinary festival partners and YouTube we hope that everyone gets a taste of what makes each festival so unique and appreciates the art and power of film.”

“One of the most unique and inspiring aspects of the world staying home is our ability to come together and experience an event as one, and We Are One: A Global Film Festival is just that,” said Robert Kyncl, Chief Business Officer, YouTube. “Along with Tribeca Enterprises and our incredible partners, we are bringing fans the opportunity to experience the curated programming each of these festivals provides as part of our ten-day long event. It’s an event that’s never been done before and we’re proud to be the home for this fantastic content that is free to fans around the world.”

“We are proud to join with our partner festivals to spotlight truly extraordinary films and talent, allowing audiences to experience both the nuances of storytelling from around the world and the artistic personalities of each festival,” said Pierre Lescure, President of the Cannes Film Festival, and Thierry Frémaux, Cannes Film Festival General Delegate.

We Are One: A Global Film Festival will run from May 29 – June 7, 2020, on YouTube.com/WeAreOne. Programming will be available for free, and will include films, shorts, documentaries, music, comedy, and conversations. A full schedule will be available closer to the festival start date.

About Tribeca Enterprises

Tribeca Enterprises is a multi-platform storytelling company, established in 2003 by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. Tribeca provides artists with unique platforms to expand the audience for their work and broadens consumer access to experience storytelling, independent film, and media. The company operates a network of entertainment businesses including the Tribeca Film Festival; the Tribeca TV Festival; and its branded entertainment production arm, Tribeca Studios.

About YouTube

Launched in May 2005, YouTube allows billions of people to discover, watch, and share originally-created videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small. YouTube is a Google company.

Review: ‘Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert,’ starring Paul Tollett, Raymond Roker, Dani Lindstrom, Stacey Vee, Perry Farrell, Ice Cube and Diplo

April 10, 2020

by Carla Hay

Beyoncé in “Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert” (Photo courtesy of YouTube Originals)

“Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert” 

Directed by Chris Perkel

Culture Representation: This official documentary about the first 20 years of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (an annual event in Indio, California) includes interviews with a racially diverse group of Coachella employees, artists and other associates.

Culture Clash: Coachella was a money-losing festival in its first few years and has grown into a major money-making event in pop culture, even though some critics believe Coachella has become too trendy and high-priced.

Culture Audience: “Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert” will primarily appeal to music fans and people who want to learn more about Goldenvoice, the concert-promotion company behind Coachella.

The hologram of Tupac Shakur in “Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert” (Photo courtesy of YouTube Originals)

If you’re looking for shocking behind-the-scenes stories in the documentary “Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert,” then you’ll probably be disappointed. But this feel-good movie, directed by Chris Perkel, is a traditionally made chronicle of one the world’s most famous music festivals. The reason for this family-friendly portrayal of Coachella’s history (besides the fact that it’s available for free viewing on YouTube) is because Goldenvoice, the Los Angeles concert-promotion company behind Coachella, is one of the production companies that made this movie. In other words, this is not really an investigative documentary as much as it is a feature-length promotional video for Coachella.

Although some people in the movie talk about the festival’s early problems, there is absolutely no criticism of Coachella. Pretty much everyone who’s interviewed in the film gives praise to Coachella is some way. The movie’s biggest strengths are the musical performances that are in the film, as well as some interesting tidbits of information that aren’t very surprising, since most of the information in the movie has already been revealed in previous media coverage of Coachella.

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, like most pop-culture phenomena, didn’t start out as something that people immediately thought would be a hit. The festival was launched in 1999, the same year that large-scale music festivals got a very bad name because of the disastrous Woodstock ’99 Festival, which ended with riots, arson, assaults and thefts. The first Coachella, which took place in October 1999, was announced the Monday after Woodstock ’99 (which took place in August in upstate New York) got a lot of backlash for ending in such a catastrophe. And the site for Coachella was an unorthodox risk—the Empire Polo Club in the desert city of Indio, California, which is about 128 miles east of Los Angeles.

According to Goldenvoice president/Coachella co-founder Paul Tollett (the person with the most screen time in the movie), Coachella had two things going for it that most other large-scale music festivals did not: The promise of a laid-back California vibe and California’s sunny weather, which made the chances very slim that Coachella would be plagued by the kind of rain that often wreaks havoc on festivals that are east of California.

Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) founder Pasquale Rotella, who says his business models for EDC and his other festivals were heavily influenced by Coachella, had this to say: “Some people who see Coachella now think, ‘Oh, that’s a no-brainer.’ Coachella is beautiful now [but] it was difficult. It took the concert promoter Goldenvoice several years to make it happen. And if it wasn’t for Goldenvoice’s roots, I don’t think Coachella would be what it is today.

“Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert” is divided into five chapters, with two chapters focused on specific music genres: “Chapter One: Origins,” “Chapter Two: The Early Years”; “Chapter Three: The Rise of Robots” (focusing on electronic dance music); “Chapter Four: The New Beats” (focusing on hip-hop); and “Chapter Five: The Next Generation.”

“Chapter One: Origins” has the history of the early years of Goldenvoice, which Gary Tovar launched in 1981 as an independent concert-promotion company whose specialty was booking punk and alternative rock bands at small venues in the Los Angeles area. Tovar says in the documentary: “When I started doing concerts, the punk rock that I did was too wild for some people.” Slamdancing and violence were very common at these shows, so many venues were reluctant to have shows that Goldenvoice was promoting.

By the mid-1980s, Goldenvoice’s influence grew to booking larger venues and helped launch the careers of acts such as Jane’s Addiction, Fishbone and Red Hot Chili Peppers. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, many of those acts had outgrown Goldenvoice, which was still mainly booking nightclubs and small theaters. But the relationships that Goldenvoice had with these artists were the foundation of what would become Coachella.

Tollett got his start booking ska shows in Pomona, California, in the mid-1980s. When he first met Goldenvoice’s Tovar, he thought Tovar would be an unfriendly rival, but “We hit it off instantly,” Tollett remembers. Later, “He gave me a box of flyers to pass out, and that was the first day that I worked at Goldenvoice.”

Dani Lindstrom, a longtime Goldenvoice employee, remembers that back in the late 1980s, the Goldenvoice office, which was located at the time above The Palladium, was “basically about five people booking shows.” Tollett adds that in the early 1990s, it looked like Goldenvoice was doing well, but the reality was that company was struggling financially.

And then, Goldenvoice experienced a major blow when Tovar was busted for what he describes in the documentary as his “side business”—smuggling and selling marijuana. In 1991, he was arrested and later sentenced to seven years in prison. The scandal effectively ended Tovar’s career as a concert promoter, but he refused to let Goldenvoice go bankrupt while he was in prison. Tovar sold the company to Goldenvoice employees Tollett and Rick Van Santen, who became presidents of the company.

The documentary names two events that also planted the seeds of Coachella. First, during Pearl Jam’s feud with Ticketmaster in 1993, the band was looking to do a gig in Southern California at a venue that wasn’t associated with Ticketmaster. Goldenvoice stepped in and booked Pearl Jam at the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio. The concert was a sold-out success (25,000 people attended), and it put the concert industry on notice that a show of this size could be done without Ticketmaster.

The other important event that helped give birth to Coachella was Goldenvoice’s involvement in the Organic Festival for rave music. After bands like Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine became too big to book for Goldenvoice in the 1990s, Tollett says that the company began to focus more on booking rave acts. The concept of Coachella was for it to be a combination of a big rock festival and a rave party.

Moby, one of the performers at the first Coachella, says that he was one of the people who thought that bringing a “European-style festival to the U.S.” was an interesting idea, but at the time, he wasn’t sure if it was going to work in the California desert. Meanwhile, sound engineer Dave Rat of Rat Sound admits that he was one of many people who thought even the name Coachella was a bad idea at the time.

The documentary portrays Coachella as a groundbreaking large-scale U.S. music and arts festival for alternative rock and other artists whose careers were helped by college radio, but the movie doesn’t properly acknowledge that Lollapalooza had the same concept and did it years before Coachella existed. Lollapolooza was a touring festival that began in 1991 and continued to 1997, and was resurrected in 2003. Lollapalooza was then revived in 2005 as a non-touring festival, with the U.S. edition taking place in Chicago. It’s obvious from the timeline of when Lollapalooza was on hiatus that Coachella was created to fill the void left by Lollapaolooza.

Jane’s Addiction lead singer Perry Farrell, who co-founded Lollapalooza and performed as a solo artist at the first Coachella, is interviewed in the documentary. As influential as Lollapalooza was in the 1990s, even Farrell acknowledges that Coachella has a much higher profile in the consciousness of the media and pop culture: “You’re going to be judged, man, when you hit the Coachella stage, and it’s going to be talked about for the rest of the year.”

“Chapter Two: The Early Years” is one of the more fascinating parts of the documentary because it covers the years that didn’t get the level of media attention that Coachella does now. The headliners at the first Coachella Festival (which was only a two-day event back then) included Beck, Morrissey (footage of his performance is in the documentary), Rage Against the Machine, the Chemical Brothers, Tool, Farrell and Ben Harper.

Tollett says that Coachella was such a financial disaster in its first year (he estimates the festival lost between $850,000 to $1 million) that he had his bank card taken away and “I got kicked out of a bank.” He adds that Coachella was able to continue because of Goldenvoice’s good relationships with people in the music industry. “The only reason why we were able to keep going was because we had a good reputation,” he says, adding that people such as Lollapalooza co-founders Don Muller and Marc Geiger lent money to Goldenvoice.

The financial losses of the first Coachella caused the festival to go on hiatus in 2000. But then, the financial fortunes of Goldenvoice changed in 2001, when the company was bought by AEG Live (now called AEG Presents) for about $7 million. Goldenvoice then became part of the AEG subsidiary Concerts West, with Tollett and Van Santen retaining their presidential roles at Goldenvoice. AEG had recently constructed the Staples Center arena and wanted to have a major festival as part of its portfolio, so the company gave the go-ahead for Goldenvoice to revive Coachella. And the rest is history.

The documentary then goes over some of the biggest highlights in those early Coachella years. In 2001, there was the reunion of Jane’s Addiction, which Tollett says largely happened because Van Santen convinced the band to get back together. But the festival had a serious garbage-disposal problem that year because, as Tollett says, they didn’t have enough trash cans on the site.

However, the reunion of Jane’s Addiction at Coachella set a precedent for Coachella being a leading festival for bands to stage reunions. Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA says in the documentary that seeing Rage Against the Machine’s 2007 reunion performance at Coachella was when he knew that Wu-Tang Clan would eventually do a reunion show at Coachella, which happened in 2013. Other artists who have done reunion performances at Coachella include N.W.A., Pixies, Guns N’Roses and OutKast.

Coachella in 2002 was “the first year we didn’t make a mistake,” Tollett says. That year, Björk became the first female artist to headline at Coachella. Goldenvoice employee Stacey Vee remembers that the early 2000s were a great time for alternative rock bands, and that only helped Coachella. The documentary includes footage of 2003 headliners the White Stripes.

The year 2004 was the first time that Coachella made a profit, according to Tollett. Radiohead, Pixies and Kraftwerk were among the headliners. In 2005, there was another big alt-rock reunion: Bauhaus, which included lead singer Peter Murphy entering the stage hanging upside down like a bat for the song “Bela Legosi’s Dead.” The movie has footage of this performance. The documentary includes interviews with Bauhaus members Murphy (in an audio interview), Daniel Ash and David J, who remembers that Bauhaus wanted to release live bats during the band’s performance but couldn’t because it was illegal.

It was in the mid-2000s that Coachella became a very hot ticket. Coachella culinary director Nic Adler remembers in the first few years of Coachella, Goldenvoice was literally giving away tickets to him and his co-workers to attend. By the sixth or seventh year of Coachella, he says, those free tickets stopped. “There was that switch in the festival where you literally saw it was something you had to do, something you had to be at,” Adler comments.

Coachella in 2006 was most memorable for Madonna’s performance, which was booked on such relatively short notice that she couldn’t perform on the already-booked main stage. Instead, she performed in the tent for electronic dance music (EDM) artists. The documentary includes footage of Madonna performing “Hung Up” in the tent. Madonna was the first superstar to perform at Coachella, according to Goldenvoice’s Raymond Roker, the former editor-in-chief/publisher of URB magazine.

However, Madonna at Coachella didn’t happen without some criticism, as some of Coachella’s early fans thought that the festival wasn’t supposed to be for major pop acts. But at this point, so many Hollywood celebrities were flocking to Coachella, that it was inevitable that the festival would start having artists with more mainstream appeal. The documentary has some backstage footage from the 2007 Coachella that briefly shows actor Danny DeVito posing for a picture with singer Amy Winehouse—that pretty much says it all. Hollywood actress Rosanna Arquette, who did backstage interviews for Coachella for several years, says in the documentary: “It was the most favorite job I’ve ever had in my life.”

“Chapter Three: The Rise of Robots” covers the importance of Coachella to EDM acts. While many festivals in the 2000s were afraid to have a rave-style atmosphere, Coachella embraced it and helped boost the careers of many EDM acts. Coachella also helped usher in the era of DJs and other EDM artists staging big productions for their shows, with elaborate lighting and stunning visuals.

Two EDM performances at Coachella are singled out as major milestones: Daft Punk in 2006 (when the group performed a very “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”-inspired outer-space-themed set) and Tiësto in 2010, when he became the first EDM artist to perform on Coachella’s main stage. Steve Aoki raves about Daft Punk’s 2006 Coachella performance: “It changed people’s lives, including mine, forever.” Jason Bentley adds, “Nothing was the same after that performance.”

This chapter also mentions that Coachella influenced how EDM acts began to have more high-tech productions. Paul van Dyk says, “I’m not scared of technology. It’s something I use as a tool.” Tiësto says that the rise of EDM also coincided with the rise of social media: “Social media made a big difference. As soon as Facebook and Instagram blew up, EDM blew up. For years [EDM music] was held down by the people who controlled the [mainstream] media.”

But EDM at Coachella isn’t just about elaborate light shows or movie-quality images on big screens. Also included in this chapter are commentaries from actor Idris Elba (who moonlights as a DJ) and Nina Kraviz, who praise the low-tech vibe of Coachella’s Yuma Stage, which doesn’t have any big screens. Meanwhile, Diplo says that even though headlining sets happen at night, “Sunset is the best time to play Coachella.”

“Chapter Four: The New Beats” covers the evolution of rap and hip-hop at Coachella. Goldenvoice’s Roker notes that in Coachella’s early years, the rap acts booked at the festival tended to be those that were played on college radio and had a largely white fan base. (Jurassic 5 is named as one example.) Roker says, “It took a while for the culture to merge.”

Coachella went from booking mostly independent rap acts to acts that had major crossover success on the pop charts. Kanye West (who showed up 20 minutes late for his first Coachella performance in 2006) is cited as one of the first major crossover rap acts to perform at Coachella. Jay-Z had the biggest breakthrough as the first rap act to headline at Coachella, which he did in 2010.

According to Tollett, Jay-Z was selected for the headlining spot after Goldenvoice promoters saw him perform as a replacement for headliner the Beastie Boys at the 2009 All Points West Festival, which was also a Goldenvoice show. When Jay-Z opened the show with the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” (a rap song with a rock beat), the people at Goldenvoice knew that he could do a show that could appeal to Coachella’s audience, which consisted of mostly rock fans at the time.

As the 2010s became the decade that rap and hip-hop began to have more of a presence at Coachella, so too did social media. It was in this decade that Instagram became the main social-media platform for Coachella attendees to document their experiences and fashion choices. In 2011, YouTube began livestreaming Coachella for the first time.

By 2012, Coachella had become so popular (with the event usually selling out the first day it went on sale) that Goldenvoice did something that was truly groundbreaking at the time: Coachella was extended for a second weekend, with the same acts performing in the same time slots for each weekend. Tollett says that there were many naysayers to this idea at the time, but it turned out to be a major success and catapulted Coachella to become the world’s top-grossing festival, in terms of ticket sales. Although attendance numbers and ticket sales were not mentioned in the documentary, in 2017 (the last year that Coachella publicly reported this information), Coachella was attended by 250,000 people and grossed $114.6 million.

The year 2012 was also a milestone year for Coachella because it featured what Tollett calls “The single most popular thing that ever happened at Coachella.” During Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s performance at Coachella’s first weekend, a surprise hologram of the late Tupac Shakur appeared on stage and performed. The hologram made news worldwide and became a massive sensation on the Internet.

Dylan Brown, who created the hologram, explains in the documentary how precise the movements had to be, even down to raising an eyebrow on the hologram. “We just wanted to do it right. We wanted to be respectful to the [Shakur] family and to the fans.”

Roker adds that after this groundbreaking hologram performance, “The genie was never going back in the bottle. It established the show as part of popular culture.” Ice Cube, who was a peer of Shakur’s in the vital 1990s West Coast rap scene, comments on the Coachella hologram: “I was happy for [Dr. Dre] and happy for Tupac being able to be on stage.”

“Chapter Five: The Next Generation” covers how Coachella has evolved to stay relevant to the mostly young people who flock to the event. Gone are the days when alt-rock artists were the majority of the headliners. Coachella is now more diverse than ever before, with pop, hip-hop, Latino and Asian artists becoming more prevalent at Coachella, compared to the festival’s early years. Some of artists highlighted via performance clips in this chapter include Ariana Grande, Travis Scott, Rosalía and Blackpink.

Roker comments on Coachella changing to fit trends in music: “That’s been the hardest pill to swallow for some of the older fans.” He notes that many of Coachella’s youngest stars share some common characteristics: “They’re coming with fashion, wealth, bravado and carefree aggression.”

As for the definitive Coachella performance in the late 2010s, people interviewed in the documentary mention Beyoncé’s show-stopping 2018 Coachella extravaganza, which was made into the 2019 Netflix documentary “Homecoming:  A Film by Beyoncé.” (She was also the first black woman to headline at Coachella.) Beyoncé’s performance was such a media sensation that fans affectionately renamed Coachella 2018 as “Beychella.”

Roker says of Beyoncé’s 2018 Coachella performance: “She was a woman on a mission. She came there with a script. The performance was a State of the Union for her, and she was going to deliver it.”

And the high profile of a Coachella performance means that artists often feel the need to surpass each other with elaborate productions. The documentary mentions Kanye West’s 2019 Sunday Service performance at Coachella (with hundreds of choir singers and dancers) as one of those over-the-top productions. Goldenvoice literally built a mountain on the field at his request, since a stage was too small for what West had in mind. Goldenvoice producer Jason Brown says that hundreds of trucks were needed to bring in all the dirt and grass to construct the mountain.

Coachella’s increasing diversity and its ability to evolve with the times (instead of sticking to the same musical formula from the festival’s early years) is ultimately one of the reasons why it will continue to thrive, according to artists interviewed in the documentary. Beck, one of the performers at the first Coachella, says about the festival: “If I’m in town, I usually go as a fan. It’s everything that’s happening in music at the moment.” Shepard Fairey adds that the musical variety of Coachella is its biggest draw: “It’s not one cohesive genre. It’s just more cohesive in the idea that ‘good is good.'”

And although headliners get the majority of the media attention at Coachella, most of the music fans at the festival are also there to discover new music or see lesser-known artists they wouldn’t normally see at a regular concert. Diplo, who’s performed at Coachella several times, comments on Coachella expanding beyond the festival’s original template of rock, EDM and some hip-hop: “It’s always been a festival for discovery anyway, so we’re reaching sort of a global cusp. Every year is a metamorphosis.”

“Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert” does a great job of covering the festival’s variety of music, and the concert footage is well-edited with very good sound mixing. (Try to watch this movie on the biggest screen possible.) But what’s missing from the documentary is any coverage of the “arts” at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. There have been many amazing art installations at Coachella over the years, so it would have made the documentary truly comprehensive if a little bit of time had been devoted to including a behind-the-scenes look at the festival’s art.

And curiously, the documentary doesn’t mention that Coachella co-founder Van Santen died in 2003, until a brief obituary dedication that’s flashed at the very end (“Rick Van Santen, 1961-2003”). In the documentary, the Goldenvoice people don’t talk about how Van Santen’s death (he passed away from flu complications) affected them and Coachella. Maybe it was too much of a downer for this documentary, which clearly wants to present only a positive and upbeat side to Coachella.

Since this is a Goldenvoice-produced documentary, it comes as no surprise that there’s also no mention about Coachella’s controversies, such as complaints of overcrowding and sexual harassment of attendees. Despite Coachella’s ongoing problems that this documentary doesn’t really want to address, the festival has undoubtedly become a major part of pop culture.

As pop star Billie Eilish says in the beginning of the documentary: “Everybody knows what Coachella is. If you don’t care about music, you know [about Coachella].”  Goldenvoice’s Roker has this conclusion about Coachella’s evolution: “The fact that it represents a fuller picture of culture, that’s the bottom line.”

YouTube Originals premiered “Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert” on April 10, 2020.

 

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Beauty influencer meltdowns: How scandals and gossip are damaging the careers of Laura Lee, Manny MUA and other makeup gurus

August 28, 2018

by Yvette Thomas

Laura Lee and Manny MUA
Laura Lee and Manny MUA

The year 2018 will be remembered as a dramatic turn in the industry of social-media beauty influencers who became famous for their postings, usually about makeup, on YouTube and Instagram. As a result of offensive posts on the Internet, beauty influencers Laura Lee and Manny MUA have lost thousands of YouTube subscribers and have taken a temporary break from social media.

Within a period of two weeks, Laura Lee had her Laura Lee Los Angeles business terminated by Ulta, Morphe, Diff Eyewear, ColourPop Cosmetics and BoxyCharm after racist comments that she tweeted in 2012 were exposed. In the racist tweet, she said, “Tip for all black people if you pull ur pants up you can run from the police faster.. #yourwelcome.” She also made several fat-shaming tweets in 2013 that were exposed in mid-August 2018.

Before the scandal, Lee had 5 million subscribers on YouTube. After the scandal, she lost approximately 533,000 subscribers from August 15 to August 28, 2018, according to Social Blade. When the racist tweet was first exposed, Lee did not address the matter for a few days and continued doing her usual videos about makeup. After the scandal became too big to ignore, she temporarily deactivated her Twitter account, and deleted thousands of tweets, and then posted an apology on Twitter. When companies started dropping her, Lee then posted an emotional apology video on August 19. However, the apology video seems to have done more damage to Lee’s reputation than done any good because people have blasted her for being insincere in the video. For example, she insisted that the offensive comments were retweets from other people, not tweets she actually wrote. Screenshots taken of the comments show that they were actually tweets from Lee’s account.

In addition, Lee received a lot of criticism for her demeanor in the apology video, with many commenters on the Internet calling her remorse “fake” and her tearful wailing “bad acting.” Her apology video currently has a 92 percent “dislike” disapproval rating from people on YouTube.

Lee’s close friend Manny MUA has also felt the sting of a massive public backlash. His association with Lee and his refusal so far to publicly comment on her offensive remarks have caused him to lose more than 313,000 subscribers (from August 15 to August 28, 2018, according to Social Blade) and announce that he is taking a break from social media. His YouTube subscriber base is barely hanging on to a range of 5 million.

Lee’s scandal came on the heels of Manny MUA making an apology video after old footage surfaced of him seeming to mock a female fan by rolling his eyes and laughing at her when she walked past him at a meet-and-greet. The fan, who happens to have a form of autism, had posted a video detailing how hurt she was by the alleged insult. In his apology video, Manny MUA explained that he was not mocking the girl but was embarrassed because she had bypassed him to hug fellow makeup guru Jeffree Star. Manny MUA’s apology video also has a majority of “dislikes” on YouTube.

Manny MUA also lost a lot of goodwill in July 2018, when his company Lunar Beauty botched sales of its first palette, Life’s a Drag, by mistakenly giving refunds to some PayPal customers after the customers received what they purchased. In an embarrassing PR move, Lunar Beauty then sent an email to those customers to inform them of the error, and asked them to send the money back. It’s unknown how many of the customers actually complied with that request, but the mistake was no doubt a costly one for Lunar Beauty.

Lee isn’t the first social-media beauty guru to have been hit by a scandal over offensive remarks made years ago. In 2017, Jeffree Star (a former friend of Lee and Manny MUA) was slammed when videos from 2009 showed him making racist comments, including using the “n” word and a video where he suggested throwing battery acid on a black woman’s face so her skin would be light enough to match shades of foundation.

Star, who owns his own eponymous makeup company, made an apology video where he said, in part: “In these videos, I say some really disgusting, vile, nasty and embarrassing things … I look at them and I see them resurface and it makes me sick to my stomach because I do not know who that person was . . . the person that said those horrible vile things, that person was depression, that person was just angry at the world, that person felt like they were not accepted, that person was seeking attention.”

Star, whose makeup is sold worldwide and at U.S. retailers such as Morphe and Beautylish, did not suffer any significant damage to his career, as his business partners continued to work with him. The difference between what happened to Star and what happened to Lee comes down to timing and the perception of sincerity.

In Star’s case, he addressed the scandal right away, and the feedback that he got from most people who commented on his apology video was that his apology seemed sincere, and people believed that he had evolved into a better person since those racist videos were made. Star has also gotten ahead of any other potential scandals by teaming up with with fellow YouTube star Shane Dawson to do a series of confessional videos where Star reveals secrets from his past, including his history of self-mutilation.

However, the #MeToo movement has ushered in sweeping changes in how people are punished for offensive comments and behavior, so if Star’s racism scandal had happened in 2018, he might not have recovered as quickly, even with the best apology.

Star has famously feuded with other beauty gurus such as Kat Von D and Too Faced co-founder Jerrod Blandino. But Star’s videos that show him self-exposing his vulnerabilities have endeared him to fans, and what appears to be his sincere ownership of his flaws has apparently made him more “forgivable” than the beauty gurus who are more reluctant to own up to their mistakes.

Kat Von D, who became famous as a tattoo artist on reality shows “Miami Ink” and “LA Ink,” started her Kat Von D Beauty company in 2008. In June 2018, she faced major backlash when she posted on Instagram that she and her husband would not be vaccinating their son because they believe that vaccinations are dangerous. Von D lost thousands of subscribers on Instagram, the social-media platform where she has the most followers (about 6.6 million), but she held firm and did not make an apology. According to Social Blade, in recent weeks she hasn’t been losing Instagram followers, but she hasn’t made any significant gains either.

Social media’s influence in the beauty and fashion industries cannot be under-estimated, as numerous beauty influencers have become multi-millionaires based on how they market themselves on social media, not from having any experience or training in the industry. The biggest example is reality TV star Kylie Jenner of Kylie Cosmetics, who has a net worth of $900 million, according to Forbes.

Beauty influencers with millions of followers on YouTube and Instagram usually command “sponsorship” fees to give positive reviews or recommendations of products. Those fees can be upwards of $60,000 to $80,000 for a YouTube video or $20,000 to $30,000 for an Instagram post. A typical beauty influencer posts hundreds of videos and photos a year, so it’s easy to see why people want a piece of the action to get rich.

With all that money to be made and with competition so fierce to gain new followers/subscribers, the gossip that has swirled around social-media beauty influencers has exploded and spawned a growing number of YouTube channels specifically created to cover the drama around these beauty influencers. The need to expose these influencers’ pasts in a tabloid-like manner is a sign of how much things have changed in how people react to YouTube stars.

In August 2018, a group photo of social-media beauty influencers Lee, Manny MUA, Gabriel Zamora and Nikita Dragun showing their middle fingers with the caption “Bitch is bitter because without him we’re doing better” caused an uproar on social media because people speculated that it was an insult aimed at Star. All of this “drama” over one photo actually caught the attention of several media outlets such as Cosmopolitan, Teen VogueVox and Clevver News. Zamora also came under fire after it was exposed that he used the “n” -word racial insult in a past tweet. In an apology video on YouTube, Zamora said he was sorry for his past racial slurs. Zamora also admitted to adding the derogatory caption to the group photo without the other photo subjects’ knowledge, and that the caption was meant as an insult to Star, who accepted Zamora’s apology in a separate video. In the video, Zamora publicly ended his friendship with Manny MUA, whom he called “toxic.”

The apology worked for Zamora. After he posted his video on August 21, he gained 341,000 YouTube subscribers in one week, with more than 204,000 gained on the day after the video was posted, according to Social Blade. In the week before posting the apology, he lost more than 6,700 subscribers. As of this writing, Zamora has 778,700 subscribers on YouTube.

Reality TV has spawned its share of “15 minutes of fame” stars, but YouTube stars are a different breed. The biggest difference between today’s YouTube stars and today’s reality TV stars is that YouTube stars don’t have to rely on being cast in TV shows to keep their fame going. Unless they do something that gets them kicked off of YouTube and kills their careers, YouTube stars will have their YouTube channels, which they control, as their way to get the fame and money that most people don’t have. But as Lee, Manny MUA, and others have learned, with that fame comes the scrutiny of people who can’t wait to expose more scandals.

2018 Coachella Festival: YouTube announces live streaming details

April 9, 2018

The following is a press release from YouTube:

YouTube returns to Coachella for the eighth year in a row to exclusively livestream the first weekend of Coachella 2018. Presented by T-Mobile in the US, Optus in Australia and Garnier in Canada, music fans can take a front seat in the desert for performances by their favorite artists when they tune in to Coachella’s YouTube channel on any screen (desktop, mobile and living room) from April 13 – 15. From headliners to some of the biggest artists on the rise, livestream performances throughout the weekend will include Beyoncé, The Weeknd, ODESZA, Post Malone, The War on Drugs, Kygo, Chromeo, Alan Walker, BØRNS, alt-J and many more.

Fans tuning in will have their choice of four livestream feeds with different artists performing on each simultaneously. This includes one VR180 channel that will allow viewers to experience performances and exclusive on the ground coverage in a more immersive way using viewers and headsets like Google Cardboard and Daydream View. Fans can also create personalized viewing schedules to feature the live acts they want to see, where livestream channels will automatically change to artists they’ve selected.

Highlights from the weekend will be available through a video-on-demand hub, and returning host Jason Bentley from KCRW, along with co-hosts Nadeska Alexis, Valerie Lee and Brittany Eustis will bring fans interviews with artists and creators from throughout the festival.

Google Home will amplify the Coachella experience through a custom voice-enabled experience for both festival goers and fans around the globe tuning in to the livestream, allowing users to discover music from artists performing as part of this year’s lineup and test their knowledge of the festival, present and past. Just say, “Hey Google, talk to Coachella,” and Google Home will become the ultimate Coachella companion, providing information on the festival from set times to travel info. Once gates open, fans at home will get the backstage experience with live artist interviews throughout the weekend.

Google Pixel will bring its incredible camera capabilities to one of Coachella’s most iconic and popular attractions, the giant Ferris Wheel. Surprised festival goers boarding select Ferris Wheel gondolas will walk into a special Pixel photo booth, creating a totally unique and Instagrammable photo moment through clever visual treatments. Artist portraits will also be captured on Pixel 2 backstage by influential photographers.

In addition, Coachella and verified lineup artists will be able to post updates and information on performances and livestreams for fans directly in Google search through the recently launched integration that allows artists to customize content.

Subscribe to Coachella’s YouTube channel for up to date information on when you favorite artists are streaming live and follow @youtubemusic on Instagram and Twitter to watch the latest videos and relive past moments.  Additional details on specific artist livestreams to come.

2017 Coachella Festival: YouTube, Sirius XM return as media partners for exclusive content

April 4, 2017

2017 Coachella Festival

2016 Coachella Music and Arts Festival
A view of the 2016 Coachella Music and Arts Festival (Photo courtesy of Coachella)

YouTube and Sirius XM Radio have returned as media partners for the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival, to provide exclusive content from and about the event. The 2017 Coachella Festival takes place  April 14 to April 16 and April 21 to April 23 at Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar and Lady Gaga are the event’s headliners.

For the seventh year in a row, Coachella’s YouTube channel will have free webcast performances from the first weekend of the festival.  Viewers watching Coachella on the official YouTube webcast will be able to get footage on demand, choose from three different live channels, and use a 360-degree option, and create their own custom viewing schedules. For the first time this year, YouTube will provide a sneak peek inside the Yuma tent. Users can also opt to get browser alerts when their favorite artists go live. Jason Bentley and Francesca Fiorentini are co-hosting YouTube’s Coachella webcast, which is sponsored by T-Mobile.

For the third consecutive year, SiriusXM’s Coachella Radio, the limited-run channel and exclusive radio partner for Coachella, will feature music by artists who will be performing at Coachella 2017 leading up to the festival. Coachella Radio will then provide continuous coverage of the festival both weekends with live performances, artist interviews as well as exclusive Coachella news and happenings. Select performances will also air on other SiriusXM channels, including Electric Area, Alt Nation, The Spectrum and more. SiriusXM’s Coachella Radio in 2017 will launch on channel 18 on April 10 at 12 p.m. Eastern Time, and will air through April 24. The channel will also be available through the SiriusXM App on smartphones and other connected devices, as well as online at siriusxm.com.