A new documentary focuses on Joan Baez, a Mexican American counterculture folk singer who was there throughout some of the most significant periods of the Civil Rights Movement.

The larger picture: Baez, 82, has rarely spoken publicly about her family, her turbulent connection with Bob Dylan, or her mental health issues. The film will be released in select New York theaters on Friday and internationally on October 13.

“Joan Baez I Am A Noise,” directed by Karen O’Connor, Miri Navasky, and Maeve O’Boyle, follows Baez across several years and as she embarks on her farewell tour in 2019.

Directors were given access to letters, childhood drawings, personal notes, therapy session tapes, and extensive interviews by Baez.

The documentary features footage of her performance with Dylan, which took place just a few feet away from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” address.

It also digs into her past, including taunts for being Mexican American and her feelings of inferiority as a child.
What they’re saying is: “I think the profound experience she had in being picked on and feeling less-than gave her a really deep look forward into inequality in society and the way she fought her civil rights,” O’Boyle told Axios.

According to O’Boyle, the film employs animated renditions of Baez’s drawings and sketches to assist audiences comprehend the silent anguish and anxiety she endured for the majority of her life.

According to Navasky, Baez’s father’s work as the head of UNESCO’s science-teaching section, as well as the family’s travels around the world, opened up the singer’s eyes to other people’s hardships.

Background: Once considered one of the most famous Mexican Americans in the world for her clear voice and political songs, Joan Baez rose to prominence in 1960 as a folk singer who blended country, rock, and gospel.

Her first three albums, “Joan Baez,” “Joan Baez, Vol. 2,” and “Joan Baez in Concert,” all went gold, and she became one of the country’s first Latina crossover stars.

She also marched in Mississippi with civil rights activists from Selma to Montgomery, as well as in Vietnam War protests, all while using her songs to call attention to concerns.

Backstory: Baez was born in Staten Island, New York, to a Mexican father and a Scottish mother. Baez and her Quaker family relocated when her father obtained a doctorate in physics from Stanford University.

Her father, who was also a preacher in a Spanish-speaking Methodist church, was essential in teaching her about poverty and the plight of the underprivileged.

The intrigue: In the video, Baez is candid about her relationship with Dylan, whom she claims broke her heart, as well as her love difficulties with men and women.

Baez also discusses her addiction and suffering with childhood trauma in her family.

“I feel like her telling her life story the way she did in such a deep and meaningful way, with such candor and with such grace, is incredibly inspiring for audiences,” O’Boyle said.


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