A Megastar Beyond the Lights

“Can I be me?”
The directors of “Whitney: Can I Be Me” create a picture of a remarkable woman who needed more help than she received.

As part of the Hamptons International Film Festival’s ongoing SummerDocs series, “Whitney: Can I Be Me” will be screened tonight at 7 at the Southampton Cinema. 

Apparently, whenever Whitney Houston felt she was being overmanaged, she would ask, “Can I be me?” Hence the title for this sad tale behind the superstar singer’s megawatt smile. 

With many minutes of previously unseen footage, the film offers viewers a rare glimpse into the height of the pop icon’s career. Directed by Nick Broomfield, a British documentarian, and Rudi Dolezal, a music video director who shot Ms. Houston in concerts, recorded interviews, and captured intimate backstage moments, it traces the trajectory of a girl from New Jersey to stratospheric fame and on to a mounting fragility and sadness. She was eventually found dead in a bathtub in 2012 at the age of 48. 

Mr. Broomfield is one of the most distinctive voices in British documentary filmmaking, with a career that spans more than 30 films and four decades. 

From the film’s publicist comes this synopsis: “Whether it be racism, religion, drugs, sexuality, self-doubt, gossip, rivalry, insufficient training, the demands of parents and the industry, a troubled marriage playing out in headlines, or the inevitable toll those stresses take from so muscular and passionate a singer, the directors leave nothing unturned. They create a picture of a remarkable woman who needed more help than she received and provide an unflinching, gripping, and wholly committed exploration of talent given and taken away, in an era obsessed with how that talent lives when the stage lights go down.”

Following the screening, Alec Baldwin, a co-chairman of the film festival, and David Nugent, its artistic director, will moderate a conversation with Mr. Broomfield. Tickets are $40 at hamptonsfilmfest.org or at the theater, which is at 43 Hill Street in Southampton.