20 Feet from Stardom is a 2013 American documentary film directed by documentary filmmaker Morgan Neville and was produced by Gil Friesen, a music industry executive whose curiosity to know more about the lives of background singers inspired the making of the film.
The film follows the behind-the-scenes of backup singers and stars Darlene Love, Judith Hill, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Tata Vega, and Jo Lawry, among many others. On March 2, 2014, it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 86th Academy Awards.
Darlene Love can be recognized from her film career, acting as Danny Glover’s wife in the Lethal Weapon series, and she also became known for appearing each Christmas on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Lisa Fischer said of backup singing: “I reject the notion that the job you excel at is somehow not enough to aspire to, that there has to be something more. I love supporting other artists.” She added: “Some people will do anything to be famous. I just wanted to sing.”
Backup singers live in a world that lies just beyond the spotlight. Their voices bring harmony to the biggest bands in popular music, but we've had no idea who these singers are or what lives they lead, until now.
The Waters (Oren, Maxine and Julia Waters)
On January 17, 2013, the film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. At Sundance, the film was acquired by Radius-The Weinstein Company and was released nationwide on June 14, 2013. The film was also acquired for international distribution by Elle Driver / Wild Bunch. The film was screened at many film festivals in 2013 including South by Southwest Film Festival, True/False Film Festival, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, Hawaii International Film Festival, Philadelphia Music Film Festival, RiverRun Film Festival, San Francisco Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Montclair Film Festival, among others.
20 Feet from Stardom received nearly universal positive reviews. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 99% approval rating with an average rating of 8.1/10 based on 110 reviews. Metacritic gave the film 83/100 based on 24 reviews, indicating "Universal acclaim".
The film was a box office success, grossing $4,834,823 in the domestic box office and $385,664 internationally for a worldwide total of $5,220,487.
The film was compared to the 2012 book The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Rolls Best-Kept Secret, which focused on uncredited studio musicians in the same era, in a review.
Justin Biebers Believe (2013). Elvis: Thats the Way It Is (1970). Be Here to Love Me (2004). Bad 25 (2012). The Weavers: Wasnt That a Time! (1982).
At the 86th Academy Awards, it won the award for best documentary. At the 19th Critics Choice Awards, it also won the Best Documentary Film award. At the 2015 Grammy Awards, it won Best Music Film.