Using a single handheld camera, Israeli director Ido Haar spent several months in New Orleans with singer Princess Shaw. He claimed he was making a documentary about YouTube singers. In truth, he was documenting the raw beginnings of a viral video.
It turns out a YouTube artist from Israel named Kutiman had found one of Shaw's videos and became enraptured by her husky-voiced a cappella original song. It was filled with longing and abstractly based on a hard life of abuse and an on-off relationship with an ex-girlfriend. So Kutiman created a backing track.
Haar's film cuts between Kutiman in Israel and Shaw in New Orleans. At first, it seems like a practical joke – two filmmakers working on the same phenomenon in different ways. But then you begin to hope they let Princess Shaw off the hook. You come to understand how desperately she needs personal connection. Haar's isolating camera makes the wait more pained than it probably really is, but the payoff is worth it. The song is as intricately arranged as Shaw deserves.
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In the end, viewers learn that YouTube can offer more than the reposting of familiar songs filled with pop-up ads (Kutiman doesn't allow ads). Presenting Princess Shaw offers heartfelt insight into the creative and redemptive properties of the YouTube medium.
Because the video has already gone viral, and it's hardly a spoiler, the resulting work is the catchy "Give It Up."
Presenting Princess Shaw
Starring Princess Shaw. Written and directed by Ido Haar. 80 minutes. Not rated. Premieres 9 p.m. Monday, March 7, at Regal Cinemas South Beach 18 & IMAX, 1120 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-674-6766; regmovies.com. Shaw and Haar will be in attendance. For Tickets, visit miamifilmfestival.com.