“Listen to me I’m human…”, Grace retorts into her Nokia 3310. She is on the phone to Sly and unquestionably pissed off, at the fact that one part of Jamaica’s most prolific rhythm and production duo has failed to show up to her recording session. Grace Jones, the singer, songwriter, supermodel etc. is adamant that we and Sly see that she is human. That undoubtedly, she is going to get upset, and even teary-eyed about people failing to turn up for her work. And of course, as if on cue she launches into a vent on her frustrations, her cussing rolls out in a glorious fluidity, as though she’d never left Jamaica at the age of 13.
It is from this vantage point, that director Sophie Fiennes swerves us through the Helter-skelter world of an exceptional woman - a total work of art. On the verge of 70, Grace remains unscathed, energised, and intoxicating. In part, Bloodlight and Bami is about tracing out Grace's humanity, her vulnerability. Taking the island girl back home to Kingston Jamaica, where we bear witness to bitter stories of a severe Catholic upbringing, painful reflections of her formative years where she and her siblings were subject to belt beatings. But aside from that, there is a transnational journey, where we watch Grace truly "in the moment" as she flits from city to city. From studio sessions, to rich, savoury family discussions at the dinner table. To watching her interrogate a French director's bad call backstage on French TV performance. Fiennes plugs in intimately into the manic, and busied world of a tirelessly timeless icon, and all her various facets. Meandering from close proximity DV footage of awkward candid moments, however peculiar or intrusive they may seem, Fiennes takes care to provide those larger than life sequences too - glittering theatrics of Grace - the Supreme entertainer of unbelievable agility and a damn good hula hooper.
"Me and Grace, we conceived a baby together, and we didn't know what would come..."
Grace is a woman of performance. Watching her unfurl on screen is mesmerizing, hypnotic even. Out in the lush remote landscapes of Jamaica, Grace seems subdued, reflective and a respectable listener to her elders. Elsewhere in the world, Grace embodies the sum of multiple characters. Part tres Jolie Parisian, a haughty British, part American, part “High-flying bitch” (as said by the lady herself). Throughout the documentary, Grace fluctuates between accents, dialects almost as frequently as she alternates through the roles of mother, publicist, recording artist, muse, deviant and misunderstood artist.
"Me and Grace, we conceived a baby together, and we didn't know what would come..." Says Sophie Fiennes, in response to the making of Bloodlight and Bami. The film’s title is derived from the red light of a recording studio, while Bami is Jamaican Patois for ‘bread’, the daily substance of life. Mismatched concepts stitched together to make a glorious image. In the same manner, Fiennes cuts and stitches together a patchwork portrait, using archive of footage captured over a 4-5 year span. Wrapping us into the alluring theatre of my favourite, formidable idol, who seems light years beyond us.
Grace is an ineffable spirit; boundless, uncontrollable and constantly changeable. With so many layers to her persona, it’s hard to keep up. If the intention is to conceive of a documentary, with resembling character traits, than Bloodlight and Bami reflects like a non-identical twin of Grace’s chaotic and sometimes nonsensical world. Immersive, unstructured, and spontaneous, Fiennes and Grace leave viewers caught in the headlights, without a sense of direction or purpose. We are left with some of the pieces of the jigsaw, but the others we will just have to keep wishing for.