Cannes Film Festival

Film sheds light on sex abuse Houston endured

A vintage Bentley convertible went for US$944,000 (S$1.3 million) while a collection of dresses from designers such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton fetched US$1.9 million after the models offered kisses to the winning bidder. The auction on Thursday was
A vintage Bentley convertible went for US$944,000 (S$1.3 million) while a collection of dresses from designers such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton fetched US$1.9 million after the models offered kisses to the winning bidder. The auction on Thursday was part of the amfAR 25th Annual Cinema Against Aids gala at the 71st Cannes Film Festival, with the auctioneer cheered on by models (from left) Winnie Harlow, Karolina Kurkova, Natasha Poly and Lara Stone. PHOTO: REUTERS

CANNES •Director Kevin Macdonald had always puzzled over why Whitney Houston felt uncomfortable in her own skin.

"She doesn't enjoy her own body in some way. She's very beautiful, but not sexual... I began to wonder whether it was abuse," he said. "Then somebody told me that he had spoken to Whitney about it and that's what she said had happened to her and she felt that that was the origin of her unhappiness."

On Thursday, Macdonald's documentary about the tragic life of Houston, which claims she was sexually abused as a child by her cousin, soul singer Dee Dee Warwick, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. The revelation in Whitney, made with the cooperation of her family, comes late in the film by the Oscar-winning director.

Houston's assistant Mary Jones said the singer told her she was molested. Her half-brother Gary Garland-Houston said he was also sexually assaulted by the younger sister of soul legend Dionne Warwick.

The abuse allegation may help to shine a light on the singer's troubled love life and descent into drug addiction, which contributed to her early death at age 48 in 2012.

The film presents her longrumoured bisexuality as fact, but argues that she found it impossible to maintain a relationship with female partner Robyn Crawford due to her enduring trauma and pressure of maintaining a public image.

Dee Dee Warwick also struggled with drug addiction and died at 63 in 2008.

Whitney is the second movie about Houston in less than a year. Another British documentary maker, Nick Broomfield, released his Whitney: Can I Be Me late last year.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2018, with the headline 'Film sheds light on sex abuse Houston endured'. Print Edition | Subscribe