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Andra Day, Suzan-Lori Parks' Billie Holiday Film Reveals US Gov't Targeting

PhenomenalMAG Staff  |  Entertainment

Our stories are always richer than the stereotypes Hollywood and history would lead us to believe, and the legendary blues singer Billie Holiday is no exception.

Most of the tales we’ve seen about her over the years center around a gifted but troubled soul, a woman with unmeasurable talent who was ultimately devoured by her demons.

But look a little deeper, as Suzan-Lori Parks and Lee Daniels have, and there’s far more to her story.

Parks wrote this illuminating biopic, The United States vs Billie Holiday, and it teaches us something most of us never knew. The U.S. government was out to silence the singer.

Their methods were typical -- find a “weakness” and exploit it to shut her down -- but the reason the government was pursuing her was not widely known until now.

Holiday’s song “Strange Fruit” spoke strongly and powerfully about lynching, and the government did not want it to empower people to rise up. This is such a common theme throughout history that it should not be surprising, and sadly, it’s not.

Neither is the that many of the film’s theme’s -- set in the 1940’s and 50’s -- are still relevant today.

“This movie is more of a call to arms,” Daniels told The Hollywood Reporter. “I’m not a politician. I’m not an activist. I’m a filmmaker. I’m a storyteller. I can only do my duty by telling stories that are in the ether.”

He adds: “I mean, my spirit told me to do this film, but I had no idea how right now is the time for it, and how tomorrow is the time for it, and how next year is going to be the time for it, and how, when my kids get older, it’s going to be the time for it.”

The United States vs Billie Holiday stars singer Andra Day in her first major acting role, and she couldn’t be more thrilled to be portraying one of her musical heroes.

“I was already a big Billie Holiday fan so for me, it was a joy,” she said. According to THR, Day did “a lot of research” and so committed to getting into character that even cut off all her hair and took up smoking.

“Everything was worth it,” she said.

The United States vs Billie Holiday debuts on Hulu on Feb. 26.

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