This Documentary About “Nasty Gal” Betty Davis Is Mind-Blowing

'Seeing Betty Davis perform is like seeing an X-rated film when you expect to see Walt Disney.' The fascinating film follows her life and legacy—we're hosting an event with the director Phil Cox himself.

Betty Davis, the original “Nasty Gal”, is the perfect example of an extremely influential yet largely sidelined female soul powerhouse and visionary artist in the 1970s. Not only did her music push boundaries of what was seen as acceptable for a woman–particularly a woman of color–in the United States to conduct herself during this time, but her unapologetic attitude of absolute empowerment and avant garde embodiment of a black woman made her into the icon that she is.

During what was seemingly the height of her popularity in the early eighties, Betty Davis mysteriously and abruptly disappeared from the music industry altogether. Thirty-five years later, director Phil Cox has partnered with this living legend and made an enlightening documentary film highlighting the most important aspects of her music journey, lifetime legacy and her triumphs for women and the black power movement. Betty — They Say I’m Different, named after her 1974 sophomore album, is an insightful look at a provocative and compelling figure in the music industry and the history of rebellion in the US.

Betty Davis’ music was revolutionary at the time both in style and subject matter. Miles Davis, her late former husband and legendary jazz musician said of his former wife in his 1989 autobiography: “If Betty were to sing now, she was a Madonna or a Prince.” Beyond being the first woman to self-produce all her music, channeling a powerhouse voice and performance charisma for days, she blissfully disregarded all barriers for previous conservative restrictions on her womanhood or her black identity. The weight of this impact and her subsequent disappearance from the music industry is a central focus of the film.

In the wake of recent female empowerment campaigns such as the lauded Time’s Up movement, this type of story is particularly relevant as we enter a new era of celebrating and elevating women’s voices worldwide. Betty Davis, who is now retired and living in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania said of the film: “Although I’ve been silent for a long time, I feel it’s important to help shape my legacy while I’m alive by returning my story and music to people who will value it and learn from it. I am as committed now, as I was before, to the importance of music and our voices, both inner and outer. I am excited to be a part of this project and hope it finds the support it needs.” We are incredibly glad that it did.

Don’t miss this important film and the event we are hosting in partnership with CPH:DOX, this Wednesday, March 21st. Director Phil Cox himself will be present for a Q&A after, moderated by cultural opinion leader Aminata Amanda Corr. Get tickets and RSVP via the Facebook event.