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New Billie Holiday Documentary to Open in November (VIDEO)

Billie, scheduled for a Nov. 13 release, draws on hundreds of unheard 1970s interviews with the singer's friends, family, and colleagues

Poster for the Billie documentary film
Poster for the Billie documentary film

Billie, an in-depth new documentary about jazz vocalist and icon Billie Holiday, will be released in November.

Produced by Greenwich Entertainment and directed by award-winning filmmaker James Erskine, the documentary is based on 200 hours of interviews conducted from 1970 to 1978 by journalist Linda Lipnack Kuehl. Kuehl had intended to write a definitive biography of Holiday, who died in 1959 at the age of 44, and her research comprised interviews—taking up 125 audio cassette tapes—with Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Charles Mingus, and Sylvia Syms, among many other colleagues in the jazz world. She also spoke to Holiday’s cousin, childhood friends, attorneys, and FBI agents who kept her under surveillance, due to both her drug use and her outspoken antiracism.

Kuehl herself passed away in 1979, leaving her biography unwritten and her interviews largely unheard. Erskine has made them the core of his film, along with archival film and photography, all of it newly restored and much of it colorized for the first time.

Billie opens in theaters, and on yet-to-be-announced streaming platforms, on November 13. Watch the official trailer below.

Read Colin Fleming’s JazzTimes column on Billie Holiday’s final concerts in Boston.