Scottish filmmaker Kevin Macdonald was nearly finished conducting interviews for “Whitney,” his explosive new documentary about the late Whitney Houston, when he came across a revelation: Houston’s brother, Gary Houston, told the director that his cousin, late soul musician Dee Dee Warwick, sexually abused Gary as a child. Additionally, Gary added, he believed that Warwick also abused his sister as a child.
“Whitney,” which premiered at midnight at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, confirms that charge with multiple sources who were close to Whitney Houston prior to her death from drowning in a bathtub in 2012. (Her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, died three years later.) The information arrives near the end of an involving documentary about the singer’s bumpy life, from the dissolution of her family to her tabloid marriage to Bobby Brown. Similar to 2015’s Oscar-winning documentary “Amy,” which detailed the behind-the-scenes struggles of Amy Winehouse as she developed her public profile, “Whitney” is at once a celebration of the singer’s talent and an investigation into the tragic circumstances that complicated her life.
Read More:‘Whitney’ Trailer: Bobby Brown & Cissy Houston Answer Tough Questions About the Legend
The movie touches on Houston’s sexuality, including her alleged affair with longtime companion Robyn Crawford, as well as her struggles to remain in the public eye while fighting off a debilitating drug addiction. Anyone familiar with Houston’s career will find many of these details familiar, but the details about her childhood abuse — within the confines of a family comprised of entertainers — speaks volumes about her incapacity to resolve many issues that plagued her life. McDonald, whose previous documentary credits include the Bob Marley portrait “Marley,” is making his Cannes debut with the project, which Roadside Attractions will release stateside July 6.
A few hours before the midnight premiere, he sat down with IndieWire to explain the genesis of the movie’s big reveal, as well as his approach to maintaining control over the project despite the involvement of Houston’s family.
When did you first come across reports that Houston had been sexually abused?
It was quite late in the game. I had a sense that there was something like that behind it. I’d watched her a lot. There was something about her discomfort in her own skin, something about the way she …read more