Love to Love You, Donna Summer, a new documentary about the life and career of the late Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, will debut on HBO in May. It’s directed by Roger Ross Williams and Donna’s daughter, Brooklyn Sudano.
The film had its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival over the weekend and features a wealth of archival footage, including home movies Summer shot herself. Brooklyn and her sister Mimi Dohler also talk on camera about their mom, as do their aunts and Summer’s widower, Bruce Sudano.
According to Deadline, the movie focuses on Summer’s struggle to reconcile her deeply religious upbringing with the hedonistic, sex-positive hits she recorded — such as “Love to Love You Baby” and “I Feel Love” — as the queen of disco. “I felt God could never forgive me because I had failed Him. I was decadent, I was stupid, I was a fool. I just decided that my life had no meaning,” Summer says in the film.
The movie also covers Summer’s late-career controversy, during which she became a born-again Christian and spoke about her faith at concerts, disappointing fans who just wanted to dance. She also alienated her gay fans with a notorious remark about God “making Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” and was reported as saying that AIDS was God’s judgment on gays.
“It’s something I don’t think she ever got over,” Sudano says of the regret Summer felt over the pain she’d caused her gay fans.
The Hollywood Reporter says in its review that the film shortchanges Summer’s iconic songs, noting that it “sorely needed a musicologist or two to reflect on the cultural significance of disco and why Summer became such a momentous force in the genre.”
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