Tina is a farewell of sorts. Charting her life and phenomenal career, Daniel Lindsay and T J Martin’s documentary encourages Tina Turner to tell her story one more time before leaving the stage with grace and love. “This documentary, this is it. A closure,” explains Erwin Bach, Turner’s husband and one of the film’s executive producers.
No one deserves a rest from the limelight more. Tina begins with concert footage that reminds us of Turner’s powerful voice and boundless energy on stage. The film then cuts to an interview with Turner (filmed in Zurich in 2019). She looks incredible… it is such a joy to see her again.
However, while Tina is a celebration of Turner’s success and features many of her iconic songs and performances (as electric today as they ever were), we understand that she is also using the film to say something vitally important. At the heart of Tina is a lesson we all need to learn.
Split into four parts, the documentary explores her childhood, her relationship with Ike Turner, the violence and abuse that she endured, her astounding work ethic, the challenges she faced in restarting her career (she calls 1984’s Private Dancer her debut album) and her subsequent ascendance to become a music icon.
Much of the ground covered in Tina is familiar - and this is the point. We are aware of Turner’s life because she has been forced to retell her story again and again and again. Lindsay and Martin explore the impact of retraumatization - and cast a particularly uncomfortable spotlight on the media.
Turner does not want to tell her story. “It hurts to have to remember those times,” she says. It is now, of course, widely accepted that the retelling of painful events is extremely damaging - leading to increased post-traumatic stress and potential retraumatization.
Time and time again after Turner’s divorce from Ike, she was asked intrusive and devastating questions about her ex-husband. As a result, in 1981, she attempted to set the record straight once and for all in an interview with Carl Arrington, music editor at People magazine.
The article featured horrific details of Turner’s experiences with Ike - some of which we hear via audio from Arrington’s interview. “I went through, basically, torture,” Turner revealed. “I was living a life of death. I didn’t exist. But I survived it and when I walked out, I walked out and I didn’t look back.”
The same could not be said for the entertainment industry, which did not move on and, instead, feasted on Turner’s trauma. Few had talked about abuse in this way before and her courage and honesty proved incredibly inspiring for other survivors. Books, films and musicals inevitably followed. However well meaning, the end result was that Turner lost control of her story.
40 years later and questions are still being asked about Turner’s trauma. In the film, she recalls how difficult this is to endure. It is wonderful, therefore, to hear her talk about moving forward, discovering Buddhism and finding love. “At a certain stage, forgiveness takes over,” she explains. “Forgiving means not to hold on.You can let it go because it only hurts you.”
This is Turner’s final message to her audience. We need to move forward. We need to respect trauma and understand that, even in the case of celebrity icons, there are things that we do not have the right to know, questions we do not have the right to ask.
Having given so much of herself, Tina ends by asking something of us - to remember Turner not for her trauma but for her breathtaking talent, her magnetic stage (and screen) presence and her many incredible achievements. It seems the very least that we can do...