Berlin Film Festival: Joan Baez reflects on amazing career, Bob Dylan reveals anxiety and multiple personalities in ‘I’m a Mess’

From her first performance as a teenager in the late 1950s as Joan Baez, she possessed a remarkable soprano voice with distinctive vibrato that paired magically with acoustic guitar. Baez also displayed an exceptional stage presence — confident, natural and serene.

But as a documentary Joan Baez I’m a mess Revealing, almost divine serenity that appearance was deceptive.

“The stage fright before a concert was beyond what it should have been. It was terrible,” Baez told Deadline. “There will be times when I’ll be in a complete panic before a show and I’ll ask someone, ‘Get me out of there.’ And once I got there, I could do it and, for the most part, enjoy myself… but yeah, it was rough. It was up and down.”

The film, directed by Karen O’Connor, Miri Navaski and Maeve O’Boyle, made its world premiere in the Panorama Documentary category at the Berlin Film Festival on Friday. The acquisition’s title (Submarines Conducting Sales) reveals the personal struggles and public triumphs of a woman who came to personify the social conscience and countercultural pressures of the post-war generation.

“We have covered everything in this film. But it’s been a journey,” admits Baez. “I never let someone like that into my life.”

Joan Baez performs at The Beacon Theater during her Fare Thee Well…Tour 2019 on May 1, 2019 in New York City.

Photo by Debra L. Rothenberg/Getty Images

The documentary is built around Baez’s final tour, which wrapped shortly before the pandemic began. It goes back to her childhood as the daughter of a Mexican-born father and Scottish-born mother, Joan, the eldest, Pauline, and the youngest, the middle sister, Mimi. It was a family of exceptional intelligence and talent; Joan’s father was a brilliant physicist and her mother a gifted writer. Palin, Joan and Mimi could all sing (the film includes a beautiful duet of Joan and Palin’s 1950s song “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”).

For the portrait of the 82-year-old Baez, the filmmakers were able to draw from an incredible archive of materials Baez kept in storage: home movies, family photographs, journals, and Baez’s sketches and letters to his parents — both handwritten and many of which he recorded on tape on the road. And sent his mother and father back home.

“There was so much material and Joan was an avid writer, as was her mother. There were just hundreds of pages of endless writing and correspondence, audiotapes,” Navasky said. “It was just this huge archive.”

“They filmed me walking into that storage unit ’cause I’ve never been in it before,” Baez laughs. “I had no idea what was there. I mean, my parents kept everything… They kept every letter and tape, drawing.”

Joan Baez, circa 1960

Joan Baez, circa 1960

Photo by Tom Cope/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The documentary captures how Baez became a sensation after a gig at Club 47 in Boston. Between his vocal power and progressive political beliefs, he was perfectly suited to become a paragon of the burgeoning folk scene. But that rapid success caused tension in the family – she resented her father’s “easy” money that dwarfed her own, and Joan’s sisters felt overshadowed by her sudden rise to fame.

In 1961 she met Bob Dylan on the New York folk scene and they soon became a romantic couple. “I was stoned on that talent,” he said in an interview from the era. In 1963 they performed at the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. By then, he had arguably become the voice of his generation; Before long, Dylan would assume that mantle.

Archival footage shows how Baez brought Dylan on stage during his concerts when he was more lauded than he was (his fans often booed Dylan, just wanting to hear him speak). A trip to London in 1965 became pivotal to Dylan’s career and the couple’s future; His fame overtook him, and in interviews in London he denied being romantically involved.

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan perform a duet at the Newport Folk Festival, Rhode Island, 1963.

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan perform a duet at the Newport Folk Festival, Rhode Island, 1963.

Photo by Rowland Scherman/Getty Images

“I was completely devastated,” Baez told the filmmakers. The matter still seemed painful to him. “I think maybe Dylan broke my heart,” she says. “I think that’s fair enough to say.”

That part of Baez’s life has been documented in other films, including Martin Scorsese’s 2005 documentary. No directions home. boring about what Joan Baez I’m a mess Revelations surrounding her lifetime of psychological stress that she experienced. He suffered from anxiety from a young age, at 16 he considered life “unexhausting” and began therapy as a teenager. If he experiences pleasure, a kind of self-destruction develops, causing him to become physically ill.

“This little strain lasted a long, long time. If I had a good time, I had to pay for it somehow,” she says. “I don’t think I’m alone with this — I’ve met a few other people who have the same [experience]. It was too exaggerated in me, and less and less so I went on.”

In a disturbing part of the film, Joan discusses her sister Mimi accusing their father of making sexual advances on her. Joanne also recounts memories of being in bed with her father, although she says she cannot remember for sure if her father sexually assaulted her. In the archived audiotape, Al Baez expressed his frustration at Mimi and Joan’s accusations. “I can’t prove anything,” Baez told the filmmakers.

For the first time, Baez spoke in detail about her experiences with multiple personalities, one of whom she described as “Diamond Joan”. This condition, known clinically as dissociative identity disorder, usually results from long-term trauma in childhood that includes abuse or neglect.

“There’s a reason these people show up,” Baez tells Deadline of the different personalities. “They are saving your life.”

He added, “I never talked about it. That would be the first hint that anybody… I don’t know what the reaction would be.”

The filmmakers say they carefully considered how to present such a sensitive side of Baez’s life.

“We wanted to make sure it had context,” O’Connor said. “It can very easily tip into something sensational and unnecessary during the film. And so we wanted it to be grounded in Joan’s struggle in another way. As you can see from her childhood, she struggled with crippling panic attacks and fear… We wanted Joan to be in the drawing, in the subject matter, in her life story, and then to do that thoughtfully. , carefully, honestly, and as fairly as we can.”

“Finding the right balance and doing it right for Joan was very, very complicated,” adds Navasky.

Joan Baez is honored at the 43rd Annual Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, DC.  June 1, 2021

Joan Baez is honored at the 43rd Annual Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, DC. June 1, 2021

Photo by Michelle Crowe/CBS via Getty Images

Directors have accomplished that, Baez said.

“They tried to keep it so it wouldn’t dominate my world, the movie,” Baez commented. “That’s part of it and I think it’s really important. And that was their job, to try and do it artfully and reasonably. And I think we succeeded in that.”

Baez told Deadline that she truly considers herself retired from acting. We asked him what he’s most proud of, examining the arc of his life and career.

“Maybe, or maybe, that I got through it and came to some kind of peace,” she says, likening her experience to coming through a tunnel. The question triggered a sudden realization on his part.

“Ah, I dreamed of a tunnel last night, I remember. [In the dream] They are building a tunnel under the sea. They have to move from one continent to another, and how do they do it? And who will volunteer? All right. I just discovered this dream. But I made it through the tunnel. I don’t know if the people in there ran out of oxygen, if they did or not, but I did.”

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