Presenting Princess Shaw
Through You Princess will follow Samantha, Kutiman, and some of the musicians around the world who are not aware of Kutiman creating his new music out of their musical web clips. Everyone is from another background, culture, and country, but all share now a mutual musical vision.
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★★★★★ review by One Room With A View on Letterboxd
Someone once said that putting videos on YouTube is like throwing messages in bottles out into a churning sea made up entirely of messages in bottles. Israeli YouTuber Kutiman (real name Ophir Kutiel) plucks those metaphorical messages out of the sea and stitches them together into novels; combining homemade music videos into beautiful symphonies. Presenting Princess Shaw is the story of Kutiman’s eventual collaboration with 39-year-old Samantha Montgomery, and it really does feel like a fairytale.
When we first meet Samantha, a New Orleans nurse with an incredible set of pipes who posts videos as Princess Shaw, she has no idea of Kutiman’s existence. Though we’ve already seen Kutiman’s working, and know that director Ido Haar has simply told her that he’s making a video about YouTubers. We watch her going through her day-to-day life, suffering crushing rejections and random acts of injustice (her car ends up on bricks at one point), until she finally learns that someone halfway around the world has helped her go viral overnight. It’s a reveal that would bring tears the eyes of even the stoniest audiences.
Of course, it’s easy to spot the ethical issues in both Kutiman’s mashup work and Haar’s narrative stacking of the deck. But it’s also clear that the director is interested in Princess Shaw for more than just her music. The woman is a genuine inspiration: she talks candidly of being horrifically abused as a young girl, and about how music became her means of overcoming her trauma.
Some may argue that Presenting Princess Shaw tells only part of a story, but that’s arguably true of just about any documentary. What matters is what we’ve got, and this is a thoroughly uplifting film about an undeniably talented woman and the beauty of online collaboration. It’s an utter knockout.
★★★½ review by Jason Alley on Letterboxd
As a feel-good documentary about following your dreams, PRESENTING PRINCESS SHAW is entertaining if a tad skimpy. As a documentary about the ways in which the internet has completely reshaped life on planet Earth in every way, it's fascinating.
★★★½ review by Ken Rudolph on Letterboxd
Semantha Montgomery was a lonely young lady living in New Orleans with a cell phone. Under the nom de tube of Princess Shaw, she posted frequent You Tube vlogs, including some which featured her singing songs she composed a capella. Meanwhile, a musician living on a kibbutz in Israel, Ophir Kutiel, under the stage name Kutiman, was doing montages of You Tube videos set to music. When Kutiman discovered Princess Shaw's songs on-line, without prior permission he set about to score them instrumentally and create and post the enhanced videos. This documentary covers this process from both sides, leaving the actual chronology somewhat vague. There's much to admire here: Montgomery's blues tinged songs are pretty wonderful, and Kutiel is a fine instrumentalist and video editor in his own right. The feel-good documentary really does feel good, even if it does come off as having manufactured events.
★★★½ review by apexpredator2 on Letterboxd
The subject of the documentary is above reproach, but the documentary itself and its director Ido Haar can't say the same.
The documentary, as it were, concerns New Orleans orderly Samantha as she cares for elderly patients at a nursing home. But at home, she releases YouTube videos under Princess Shaw where she reveals a strong singing voice with shades of Mary J. Blige and Macy Gray and her variable emotional state as she deals with a heartbreaking past and an uncertain present (she has to deal with both car issues and keeping the lights on in her place).
Her videos attract Israeli musician Kutiman who is best known for taking videos of random musicians and blending it into a cacophony of sound. Although it's somewhat questionable whether Kutiman is exploiting these artists, nobody has threatened a lawsuit or demanded he stop as presumably they're pleased that he's noticed them.
As the film goes on, one suspects that she'll eventually find out what he is doing and somehow benefit from it. Which to a certain extent, she does. The scene where she hears about the collaboration for the first time in a park is heartwarming. And you find yourself rooting for Shaw the entire time whether she's encouraging another musician to succeed or dealing with her failure to get onto The Voice (it was kind of eerie to see Christina Grimmie perform on a TV).
But ethical questions about how real this documentary take hold in the early going as some scenes involving Kutiman appear to be staged. It gets worse when you hear that director Haar was tipped off by Kutiman that he was going to work with Shaw. Perhaps this was a deliberate decision by the director to commentate on how YouTube stages narratives, but more likely you get the sense that Haar isn't being 100 percent honest about the film.
But her efforts were rewarded towards the end as she heads to Tel Aviv to meet Kutiman. Here the question of how she was able to scrape forth the funds to fly to Israel gets raised. But her enthusiasm is real and contagious. Just like it is when she talks to her mother about how Kutiman's efforts have led to fame and positive comments aplenty.
Hopefully Shaw will be able to use her voice and increase in fame to pound out a real musical career. It does appear Shaw is the real deal, at least. Wish I could say the same for the film.
★★★★ review by Americanguy on Letterboxd
I only thought I'd watch a few minutes of this at best, but I just loved her personality, actually just about everyone in here seems lovely. A YouTube talent gets plucked from obscurity, when a guy who mixes music clips from youtube decides to include her work.
I heard some shades of Amy Winehouse vocally and song writing wise, me and that commenter from Youtube shared that opinion. The songs she writes sounds like something Amy would be singing. I really liked her singing voice, but I think her talent for writing original songs is amazing and her ability to take a little time to make everyone feel special really stood out. Really impressed by Kikemon, I'm sure I spelled that wrong. and his heart as well.
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