Review by Sean Boelman
With their newest film Born Into the Gig, documentarians Kate Davis and David Heilbroner explore a topic that has fascinated scholars and critics of the entertainment industry for years: nepotism. However, the fatal flaw of their film is almost ironic in that their subjects are frequently overshadowed in the film by their famous family members.
The film takes a look at the lives and musical careers of four up-and-coming musicians hailing from lineages of great artists (Stephen Stills, Bob Marley, Bill Withers, and James Taylor and Carly Simon) and how they have struggled to live up to the great expectations set of them by the images of their iconic relatives.
With a runtime right at ninety minutes and four stories (technically five, if you count the sibling duo separately), Davis and Heilbroner’s film is pretty dense, yet it still feels like it doesn’t go deep enough into its story. Still, giving each of the subjects roughly equal screen time and building the narrative thematically, the film is satisfyingly cohesive.
There is a common misconception in entertainment that kids who come from show business families have it a lot easier in the industry, and this documentary hopes to open eyes to that fact. While it may be easier for these artists to get their foot in the door, they arguably have to work harder to maintain their status.
However, the big problem here is that it focuses a bit too much on the expectations and less on what these young artists are doing to beat them. And in cases where their celebrity relatives are alive (and willing to participate), the film features some pretty extensive interviews with them. While this does give the film “star power”, it would have been more fitting to hear more of their story from their own mouths.
Even the performance footage, while great and a lot of fun to watch, is largely focused on their parents (or grandparents). Most of the prominent performances show the subjects covering their relatives’ music instead of performing their own creations. This is particularly disappointing with Kori Withers, who seems to be the most talented songwriter of the bunch.
That isn’t to say that the film isn’t well made — it’s certainly professional-looking, and Davis and Heilbroner bring a lot of energy to the table — it just loses focus. Music fans certainly won’t be bored by anything they see, but for a film that is supposedly about busting entertainment stereotypes, the filmmakers certainly play into them a lot.
Born Into the Gig has an interesting premise, but unfortunately, the filmmakers take the wrong approach to telling the story. It’s a shame that these talented musicians continue to be relegated to their relatives’ shadows even in a film exploring those shadows.
Born Into the Gig screens at the Enzian Theater as part of the Florida Film Festival on August 15 at 5:45pm. The Florida Film Festival runs August 7-20 in Orlando, FL.