FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
"A comprehensive and engrossing documentary that adds dimension
to the life of the late singing star." - Philadelphia Inquirer
"Considerably superior to Bohemian Rhapsody." - Philadelphia Weekly
"Lichtenstein's terrific documentary reveals the so-incredible-it's-amazing-it's-not-a-Hollywood-movie story of 'the black Elvis'. - Metro
"Lichtenstein does a brilliant job of explaining what a vital figure Pendergrass was
for US black culture in the 1970s...The archive footage she presents is captivating and
beautifully emphasizes the utterly irresistible pull of the man." - Record Collector
If You Don't Know Me is the powerful and moving story of R&B star Teddy Pendergrass (Theodore DeReese Pendergrass), who was on the brink of global super-stardom when tragedy struck. A compelling tale with surprising twists and turns, the film is an intimate portrait of one of the greatest singers of his generation. It also tells how Teddy fought for the rights of African-American artists in a 1970s music industry prejudiced against black performers and reveals how, aged just 31, Pendergrass overcame terrible tragedy to get back on stage against all the odds.
The film's triumphant world premiere at the Philadelphia Film Festival (Teddy's home city), resulted in an Audience Award and a nomination for the Pinkenson Award. The film also had successful screenings at DOC NYC, Minneapolis Sound Unseen Film Festival and San Francisco Black Film Festival. Earlier this year, If You Don't Know Me was shown to sold-out cinemas in the UK, on Sky Arts and also aired on Showtime in the US.
Director and BAFTA award-winner, Olivia Lichtenstein conceived, researched and directed the film, which reveals Teddy's meteoric rise from his tough childhood in Philadelphia to become the lead singer of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. His was the voice of worldwide hits, "Don't Leave Me This Way" and "If You Don't Know Me by Now."
Olivia recalls: "I grew up listening to soul music and I'd just started listening to Teddy again when I saw a documentary about Shep Gordon, the legendary artist manager who worked with everyone from Blondie to Alice Cooper - and Teddy. It included a little bit about him working with Teddy Pendergrass and it made me realize that I didn't know what had happened to him. I had a really strong sense that I had to make a film to tell his story."
Olivia contacted Shep Gordon, who agreed to join the project as an executive producer, along with Michael and Katherina Saunders. A short trailer was enough to sell the idea to BBC Films, who stepped in to co-finance the production with Wasted Talent. The 106-minute documentary features revealing interviews with his family, including Teddy's ex-wife Karen, mother Ida - now 101-years-old, as well as friends and industry legends, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The film also boasts rarely seen archive footage and a super soulful soundtrack.
Lichtenstein added: "This is an extraordinary, human story that feels almost Shakespearian - it's much more than just a music biopic, it's an intimate portrait both of Teddy and of the extraordinary times in which he lived. We really get to know him because we hear from so many people who were close to him. It almost feels as if he comes back to life to let the world hear him sing again."
Producer Ian Flooks of Wasted Talent said: "We were committed to this film and extraordinary story from the start, especially given our roots and unique experience in the music industry before expanding into film, theater and digital media, so it was the perfect fit for us." Producer Piers Tempest of Tempo Productions adds: "Teddy's story is an important and ultimately inspiring one and we are delighted to help shine a light on the man and his music".
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