Acclaimed new documentary premiers at The Broad Theater
It’s a Cinderella story for the 21st century.
During the day, Samantha Montgomery cared for the elderly in a rough part of New Orleans. During the night, however, she’d become ‘Princess Shaw’ (a name she heard on a TV show that struck her), performing her own songs – and sometimes simply talking about her life – on her YouTube channel.
“It’s like free-style a capela,” said Montgomery, describing the videos she began posting in 2012. “It’s also just me, my personality…just me being me.”
Despite her raw, soulful voice and engaging personality, her YouTube pieces weren’t widely seen.
“I was in a bad place,” said Montgomery, 38.
But the Chicago native persevered. What she didn’t know was that 7,000 miles away, in Israel, someone had seen and heard Princess Shaw – someone who would set some major wheels in motion.
Ophir Kutiel, better known as Kutiman, is a composer, musician and pioneering video artist living on a kibbutz in Israel. He is known for taking seemingly random video clips from YouTube and then slicing and editing them into complex compositions. But he does it all without telling the artists from whom he is borrowing, until he uploads his finished product.
That’s what Kutiman did with a song of Princess Shaw’s called "Give it Up." When Montgomery heard the end result, “it just blew my mind,” she said. “It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard in my life. I was ecstatic, I was overjoyed, I was honored, I felt blessed in that moment.”
Through a new documentary, Presenting Princess Shaw that premiers tonight at The Broad Theater (636 N. Broad), we get to travel with Montgomery through her struggles as an artist trying to be heard to the triumphant moment when she learns her collaboration with Kutiman has gone viral.
Presenting Princess Shaw has been traveling the festival circuit since the Toronto Film Festival, playing at SXSW and picking up awards along the way. It has also been supported by Participant Media, which was behind last year's Oscar-winning film Spotlight.
It will open in a special engagement at The Broad tonight, June 3, and will play for one week and depending on the response, could play for another week, said Broad owner Brian Knighten.
"The film has been incredibly well received by critics,” said Knighten, “and we are excited to host its exclusive New Orleans run. If you haven't seen the trailer, watch it now. It will put a joyous tear in your eye."
Life has changed for Montgomery since all of this began. “I travel all over,” she said. “I get to meet great people. I’ve been to Israel three times, I’ve been to Amsterdam, I’ve been to places I never thought I’d go.
“And my soul is better. I have self-worth and self-love now. I know how to deal with people better, I know how to deal with myself better. I’m accepting of affection - I wasn’t at first, now I am. I’m a totally different person. It changed me for the better.”
And Montgomery speaks from experience when she says “if you have a dream in life, never stop. Keep going until you can’t go anymore, because you never know what could happen. Things do happen for people sometimes.”
For more info, visit http://www.thebroadtheater.com.
Brian Friedman writes about New Orleans for NolaVie.