Actors: Misty Copeland
Director: Nelson George
Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
Number of discs: 1
Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
DVD Release Date: February 2, 2016
Run Time: 84 minutes
Though it raises some valuable questions about society’s ideas of race in the art of ballet, A Ballerina’s Tale is the cinematic equivalent of a vanity piece, for more interested in promoting the brand of Misty Copeland than providing a thoughtful analysis of the questions raised. There is certainly some inspiration to be found in the talented dancer’s rise into fame, but it feels to easily earned in a film about struggles against adversity. Perhaps many of the difficult times were glossed over in favor of moments of inspiration, or it could be that the idea of discrimination is merely a selling point for her image, reason to praise her more than others who have worked just as hard.
Even after watching a documentary about the ballet dancer, I don’t feel as though I have an honest perception of who she is, primarily because it was a film produced by her publicist, giving the content questionable credibility and explaining why many areas of the story are glossed over. So much of the movie hammers in the idea of Copeland’s struggles due to her darker complexion, despite showing nothing but advancements in her career to contradict these claims. When she does struggle, it mostly seems to come from her own personal doubts and the physical limitations dancers of all races must face. This is not to say that her race is insignificant, but if anything it seemed to set her apart and make her a cultural icon that never would have been possible had she been just another skinny white girl.
But where did Copeland’s love of dancing originally come from? Where is her family during the struggle and the success? These are all questions that are passed over in favor of repeating the same ideas about race throughout the entire film. Although I am certain race is a significant issue in the career of many dancers/artists, in A Ballerina’s Tale it is mostly just shown to be a topic that Copeland likes to discuss, far more than it is actually seen affecting her career. I’m not saying that Copeland was never discriminated against, but that A Ballerina’s Tale never offers any compelling evidence to prove such, especially as she rises quickly into the prestigious American Ballet Theater.
With so much of the movie feeling like a fluff piece, I can’t recommend this documentary to anyone but existing Copeland fans. Even when the narrative takes a brief breather from minority issues and claims of discrimination, the content just reads like an extended commercial trying to make Copeland more of a pop culture celebrity than she already is. A documentary should hit more than a single note, and preferably offering a perspective slightly less biased. The DVD extras include a handful of deleted scenes and a trailer for the film.
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 5/10
Historical Significance: 4/10