"Presenting Princess Shaw" Review

Presenting Princess Shaw is the feel good documentary of the year thus far in my book! It’s a film about two incredible artists sharing in each others dreams. One who has the strength to carry herself like the star as she pursues her dreams of becoming a singer, while all the chips seem to be against her. The other, a talented musician who mixes sounds from around the world via YouTube videos. The two artists, passionate about their craft, come together to make beautiful music, and an inspiring documentary.

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Samantha Montgomery’s days consist of helping the elderly at the local nursing home. At night she sings wherever she can be heard. She also runs her own YouTube channel as Princess Shaw in which she sings, and shares her personal story of dealing with the sexual abuse she suffered as a child, hoping someone is listening. Little does she know that nearly 7,000 miles away someone is. 

Ophir Kutiel, a musician out of Israel who goes by the name of Kutiman, has made a name for himself in the world of fine art by mashing up amateur YouTube videos. He finds Princess Shaw’s videos and starts putting together a hit! When you see how he does it, you have to respect the time it takes to construct each song, and the vision to hear the final product made from Frakensteined videos. When asked, Kutiman says heplans to put the video out online, and let the people who hear it be the ones that notify Shaw.

The film manipulates time in a way that works. We’re able to learn about Shaw through her YouTube videos. The videos that served much like an open diary to the world for Shaw, become the backstory of the film we’re watching. Juxtapose that with Kutiman, working up a masterpiece on the other side of the world and instantly we’re in on the secret that Princess has no idea about. While she struggles to keep the lights on (there’s a scene in which she’s using candles to light her apartment), and plays at a club for five people, she doesn’t give up on her goal. She’s the type of person you want to win though! She’s kind hearted, confident, and determined in spite of the difficulties in her life. So when Shaw and Kutiman finally meet, it's a beautiful, heart-warming scene.

Writer/director Ido Haar originally set out to film a documentary about YouTubers and thus was filming Princess Shaw while Kutiman was constructing the songs. So it was a perfect storm for the film to come together. Haar also edits the film to perfection. He cuts together moments in time, trusting there is enough in each scene to make a point and then jump ahead. It’s cut in such a way that Kutiman rarely speaks until the end of the film. Instead, he silently observes Shaw’s videos while working on his music. Yet his silence still speaks, because it’s a good bet that just as he’s falling in love (figuratively) with Shaw, we feel the same way as observing viewers.

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Presenting Princess Shaw is a film that’s about not giving up, pursuing your passion, and overcoming odds. Shaw’s attitude and outlook on life is admirable. Rather than complaining or carrying a large chip on her shoulder, she gives to others. So when she wins, we win! It’s a film that gives you hope that sometimes good things happen to good, deserving people!

Rating: A-

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Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.