Sunday, June 18, 2017

Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall

Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall, dir. Katherine Fairfax Wright, 2017 USA, 100 min. 💖👑
Saturday, June 17, 3:45 p.m., Castro Theatre: Bay Area première
Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall
“Who??” was my first question. I'm ever-so-slightly behind the curve when it comes to things like viral YouTube videos, and had never heard of Todrick Hall — although it turns out I had seen one video he starred in: the safety information video on Virgin America airlines! I say this because, if you're already a fan you're going to see this film no matter what some random blogger has to say; however, if, like me, you had no clue who Todrick Hall is, you need to see this film right away.

Todrick Hall has worked on YouTube videos, on Broadway, and at Walt Disney World. He has a great singing voice, but the lyrics are what make him special: a combination of personal vulnerability and serious social issues (race, sex, sexual orientation, and religion, for starters) give his work an emotional impact I never would've expected from a “YouTube sensation.” His connection with his fans is also far deeper than your typical pop diva or video flavor-of-the-month: several fans tell their stories of how he brought hope and light into their lives at some of their darkest moments. I wasn’t expecting to be genuinely moved by a documentary with this much glitz, but the emotional reverberations are as catching as the snappy lyrics.

This documentary — from the same filmmaker who brought us the incredible documentary Call Me Kuchu (Frameline 36) — tags along with Todrick as he crams writing an album worth of songs, making videos for the songs, and creating a live stage show around them, all into the space of about a month. We see the creative process, rehearsals, filming, and touring, with co-workers, friends and fans. The tour coincided with some major events: the murder of another YouTube celebrity at a “meet and greet” and the mass murder at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub (where Todrick was well known from his Disney days); those events are presented with heartfelt impact and without exploitation. If you’re looking for a film that will tug at your heart strings and make you tap your toes, make you smile and make you tear up, look no further.

Every moment of this film is worth seeing, so I absolutely rate it a MUST SEE for all audiences, not just YouTube habitués. Just be careful you don’t get sucked into the YouTube channel — you’ll miss the rest of the festival!

IMDb pageOfficial websitetrailer • Todrick’s website · YouTube · Facebook · Instagram · Twitter • trailer for “Straight Outta Oz” tour •

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