Girls Tyme: Making a Child of Destiny
Review by Mark Schwab
March 15th, 2018
The year was 1993. The place was a soundstage in Los Angeles where the talent show STAR SEARCH was being taped. There was an electric atmosphere as four pre-teen girls (which included the young Beyonce Knowles) took to the stage with passion, excitement and the name "Girls Tyme". Offstage, a woman stood with a beaming smile watching "her girls" give an impressively polished and energetic performance.
The woman watching just offstage with the beaming smile? That would be Andretta Tillman - the woman behind "Girls Tyme". A woman who has remained a relative unknown...until now. GIRLS TYME: MAKING A CHILD OF DESTINY is a documentary designed to highlight and credit an extraordinary woman who faced intense tragedy and personal illness and still built an important legacy that deeply impacted the lives of those close to her.
Andretta Tillman - or "Miss Ann" as everyone refers to her (a sign of genuine respect) - was indeed an inspiring mentoring figure. After losing her husband and daughter in a horrific car accident and battling lupus, Miss Ann channels her energy into creating musical success stories for the local young folks. She teaches them discipline, performance and even business acumen, culminating in her Beyonce-led "Girls Tyme" band competing on national television's Star Search. Although they lost that round to the much older, all-male rock bank "Skeleton Crew", "Girls Tyme" lays the groundwork to eventually morph by 1997 into one of the most popular music groups ever: Destiny's Child.
Now there is no question that Tillman is a very worthy documentary subject and her connection to Destiny's Child insures an interested and built-in audience. That is why it is disappointing this documentary comes up short in too many critical areas during the 71-minute runtime.
The biggest issue for me was the myriad of post-production issues. In the version I was given to screen, there are so many issues that this felt like a rough cut instead of a finished film; multiple sequences were out of sync with the headshot interviews (i.e. the lips were not moving in sync with their voices) and some people just get completely cut off in the middle of sentences. Also there are awkward transitions between shots and recording levels fluctuate even within the same scene.
These post-production problems could almost have been excused if the narrative was a strong as Andretta's resolve. But alas, it wanders all over the place to the point where it is very difficult to follow Andretta's timeline. I had to rewind the movie more than once when a subject was telling a story that didn't make sense; too often stories were told completely out of context with what had come right before it, making it tough for the viewer to follow. This makes the technical mistakes stand out sharply and keeps the story from hitting on an emotional level.
In the end, I was moved by the testimonials of all the people Andretta Tillman inspired as well as her life's story. But it was much more work than it should have been and that's only because of the haphazard picture editing and sound mixing. Andretta Tillman's life was certainly one that was well-lived and worthy of aspiration...I just wish the filmmaking had matched her own personal demanding standards.
The film is available on Amazon.