On May 3, 2016, (8pm – check your PBS station) American Masters will not only offer the exclusive U.S. broadcast premiere of Oscar-nominated filmmaker Amy Berg’s Janis Joplin documentary on PBS, but the film Janis: Little Girl Blue will now have never-before-seen extended cut features, new interviews with Alecia Moore (a.k.a. Pink), Juliette Lewis, Melissa Etheridge, Laura Joplin and Narrator Chan Marshall (a.k.a. Cat Power).
In the documentary, more details of Joplin’s sexual fluidity is revealed, as well as much of angst she endured from her high school classmates that lit the fire of her extraordinary performances, while at the same time made drove her to experiment with drugs, alcohol and lovers of both genders.
Even with about ten minutes of additional footage for PBS Janis: Little Girl Blue is light on the many women in Janis’ life people she was both professionally and romantically involved with. As Daniela Costa writes in After Ellen, “Amy Berg would be the first person to tell you those relationships existed: “I think Janis loved whom she loved when she loved them,” Amy said. “I wasn’t trying to slant it in any way and I want to make sure that that’s clear–that Janis loved men and women.
“The relationships I know of with women that she had were more with people that she was really close with and would kind of be romantic with at different points,” Amy said. “But she would keep going back to them. Like Peggy was a really good example of that.” Although she was mentioned, Peggy did not want to “put her face in the film.”
“I approached so many women,” Amy said. “I had such a long list of women that were around at that time, and I think there is somewhat of an issue with aging and women and their reluctance to show their face today because they looked a certain way in their 20s. It’s really tragic.”
The film focuses on her music and her place in musical iconography.
Of course we all know that Joplin was one of the most revered and influential rock ‘n’ roll singers of all time, born January 19, 1943 and died October 4, 1970. In between, for a far too short period of time, she thrilled audiences and blazed new creative trails before her untimely death at age 27.
The upcoming broadcast features a never-before-seen extended film cut with additional archival performance footage and new interviews with Joplin’s sister Laura Joplin and musicians influenced by Janis: Alecia Moore (a.k.a. Pink), Juliette Lewis, Melissa Etheridge and the film’s narrator, Chan Marshall, who is best known as indie rock star Cat Power. In tribute, she performs “A Woman Left Lonely” from Joplin’s final studio album Pearl, released posthumously on January 11, 1971. This year marks the album’s 45th anniversary.
Original interviews with Joplin’s siblings Laura and Michael, friends, lovers and fellow musicians, including Big Brother and the Holding Company bandmates Peter Albin, Sam Andrew and Dave Getz, Bob Weir (Grateful Dead), Country Joe McDonald (Country Joe and the Fish), Kris Kristofferson, Dick Cavett and Clive Davis, give a complete sense of someone haunted by insecurity and a need for acceptance throughout her life, despite her on-stage bravado and uninhibited, sexualized persona.
Exploring her childhood, struggles with addiction, active role in the musical and cultural revolution of the 1960s, surprising rise to stardom and untimely demise, Joplin’s own words tell much of her story through a series of letters she wrote to her parents – many of them made public for the first time – and read by Marshall.
“The only way to tell Janis’ story was through Janis’ voice. Her letters show the vulnerable artist, daughter and lover Janis was in her short but impactful life,” said writer, director and producer Amy Berg.
Other previously unseen material Berg discovered during the seven years she spent working on Janis: Little Girl Blue includes new audio and video of Joplin in concert and in the studio (some shot by legendary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker), as well as rare footage from Joplin’s emotional return to her hometown, Port Arthur, Texas, for her 10th high school reunion.
“We were fortunately able to unearth footage of Janis that gives another glimpse into the joy Janis felt when she was playing music and performing,” said Berg. “I’m thrilled that Janis Joplin is taking her rightful place in the series alongside other music icons of the era like Jimi Hendrix and The Doors,” said Michael Kantor, executive producer of American Masters. “I hope viewers enjoy Amy’s extended cut, made exclusively for our broadcast.”
American Masters – Janis: Little Girl Blue premieres nationwide Tuesday, May 3 at 8:00 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings) as part of the 30th anniversary season of THIRTEEN’s American Masters series.