A new polish is lathered on the story of the rock star who re-invented herself as a 

middle-aged stadium attraction.


From abuse to adulation: Anna Mae Bullock


In the new documentary Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry, the singer counts her blessings, grateful, too, that she is “pretty.” In the more succinctly titled Tina, its subject confides that, “I wasn’t pretty, I didn’t have the clothes, I didn’t have the means…” But she had the voice. And Tina Turner beats Billie Eilish every step of the way for narrative melodrama: as a child, she grew up as Anna Mae Bullock on a cotton plantation in Tennessee, where her father deserted her, and then her mother. When she was signed up to sing with Ike Turner’s the Kings of Rhythm, Ike renamed her Tina behind her back (because it rhymed with Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, a favourite TV show of his) and titled their act Ike & Tina Turner. He also thought it was a good idea if they got married. Then, after the sixteen years of rape and physical abuse (he favoured coat hangers and shoe stretchers with which to beat her), he conceded to a divorce that allowed him to keep the house, the car, their money and the rights to all their hits. All Tina asked in return was the right to use the name that he had given her.


This is a tale well chronicled. There was the autobiography I, Tina: My Life Story, the 1992 documentary Tina Turner: The Girl from Nutbush, the movie of her life What's Love Got to Do with It (for which Angela Bassett was nominated for an Oscar), the 2012 British musical Soul Sister and then the critically acclaimed West End and Broadway show, Tina. Now that the legend is a frail old lady of 81, pumped with Botox, one wonders what the point of another documentary is. At a time when the standard of cinematic non-fiction has reached a new high, and films like The United States vs. Billie Holiday show the tragic lives that so many female black icons have led, Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin's Tina seems a little redundant. Sure, it’s an accomplished piece of testimonial, albeit a trifle hackneyed, with lots of singin’ and struttin’, and a couple of comments from Oprah Winfrey. Billie Eilish has yet to prove her longevity, but R.J. Cutler’s intimate diary places the viewer at the heart and soul of her life as it unfolds. Conversely, Tina – with its talking heads, threadbare newsreel footage and pretentious set-ups – seems standard TV fare. But what a legend.




Featuring  Tina Turner, Carl Arrington, Angela Bassett, Kurt Loder, Roger Davies, Oprah Winfrey, Katori Hall, Le Jeune Richardson, Jimmy Thomas, Rupert Perry.


Dir Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin, Pro Diane Becker, Jonathan Chinn and Simon Chinn, Screenplay Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin, Ph Dimitri Karakatsanis and Megan Stacey, Ed Taryn Gould, Carter Gunn and T.J. Martin, Music Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, Sound Jesse Herrera.


HBO Documentary Films/Lightbox Entertainment-Altitude Film Distribution.

118 mins. USA/UK. 2020. Rel: 28 March 2021. Available on Sky Documentaries and Now. Cert. 15.