One of the first films I saw at the 2016 SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival) was "Presenting Princess Shaw." Director Ido Haar, an Israeli film maker, follows Samantha Montgomery and Kutiman simultaneously on their creative You Tube journeys. Samantha is a struggling black woman from New Orleans with a velvety, expressive voice who posts her original a cappella songs via smart phone onto You Tube. She also talks to the device like it is her best friend and counsellor and posts sometimes heartbreaking musings as well.
On the other side of the world is Kutiman, a musician living on a kibbutz in Israel, who researches You Tube like a musical encyclopedia. He finds snippets of uploaded performances by all ages who want someone out there in the online ethos to hear them play. Along the way he discovers Samantha, who prefers the moniker Princess Shaw, and becomes entranced by her lyrical songs. Kutiman has a special talent in being able to piece certain performances together to accompany Princess Shaw's haunting melodies. She is not aware he is doing this until he uploads a final cut.
The film maker, according to Princess Shaw who made an appearance after the screening, had been good friends with Kutiman for many years in Israel. Haar sought her out in New Orleans to make a documentary, but did not tell her about Kutiman's project. The film is the story of two worlds colliding in a beautiful way.
The heart of the story is Princess Shaw herself. She is an ingenuous, talented woman with a love of life that has sustained her through hard times. As Kutiman's You Tube videos go viral around the world, she is compared to Amy Winehouse. The good news, though, is that Samantha wants to live and refuses to succumb to self destruction. She is irrepressible in her enthusiasm for life and she pulls you along with her.