This is a review of the documentary “George Michael: A Different Story” written by Lisa Reynolds and published in the Irish LGBT Eile Magazine in February 2017. The 2004 documentary was directed by Southan Morris and produced by Caroline True. It was first aired on BBC on 27 November 2004 and then had a limited cinematic release in 2005-2006.
It was a huge, and very sad, shock to many fans, including myself and my sister, who had been discussing old Wham! songs just two days before the news of his death.
In tribute to George on the one-year anniversary of his death, I’ve reviewed the 2005 George Michael documentary, George Michael: A Different Story (2005).
This documentary, directed by Southan Morris (Blackpool Lights (2015), Ross Kemp: Extreme World (2011) and Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory (2008)) is an incredibly interesting project, charting the career of George Michael, from the early days of Wham! to his solo career. We also get to see the man behind the success, and how he coped with all the ups and downs in his personal life.
George comes across as very likeable and down-to-earth, with a tremendous wor and determination to make a successful career out of what he loved doing. Amon people speaking in the documentary are George’s former boyfriend, Kenny Goss, father Jack Panayiotou, his former Wham! bandmates Andrew Ridgeley, Shirlie ] and Pepsi Demacque-Crockett, his friend and co-writer David Austin, his manager Stephens, Martin Kemp, Elton John, Mariah Carey, Boy George, Sting, Noel Gall Simon Cowell, Geri Halliwell, Phil Ramone, Paul Gambaccini and Rob Stringer.
The documentary begins in Milan in 2004, and we are instantly drawn into George’s world of juggling his love of music and creating, with the other aspects of fame, which he didn’t enjoy. When he comes back to England, he shows us the launderette that he lived above for a year when he was younger, and told that his parents had a fish and chip shop nearby.
He also showed the lunch hall, and said his parents always lived in the area. He and David Austin then showed us the primary school they both attended called Roe Green Primary School, before showing us the house in which George grew up, from when he was a 1 year-old to age 12.
The documentary moves then to the beginnings of his career, and he goes to visit Andrew Ridgeley. Seeing them together, it isn’t hard to see how Wham! worked so well. They seemed like great friends, very at ease in each other’s company, even after all these years. Throughout the film, there are many snippets of Wham! hits and George’s solo hits. One of the snippets is from Wham!’s first appearance on Top of the Pops, performing Young Guns (Go For It). Paul Gambaccini says they got the slot after another act dropped out.
Behind the music, George had his fair share of heartbreak. I felt very emotional at two points while watching this documentary, when he spoke of the deaths of his boyfriend, Anselmo Feleppa, and his mother, Lesley Angold Panayiotou. He had first met Anselmo after seeing him in the audience at the Rock In Rio concert, in 1991. He said it was the first time he had felt selfless love for anyone, and spoke of a Christmas during which he hadn’t known whether Anselmo was ill with HIV after testing, or whether he might have the disease also.
He spoke about performing at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, following Freddie’s death from Bronchopneumonia as a complication of AIDS, and how, when he was performing, he was singing as both a tribute to Freddie and as a prayer for Anselmo.
We see part of a very emotional performance of Jesus To A Child, which he wrote about Anselmo, following his death from an AIDS-related brain haemorrhage. He also suffered grief four years after Anselmo’s death, when his mother died from cancer. He spoke of his MTV Unplugged performance, in which he spoke to his Mum in the crowd, and how it was the last performance of his she went to.
In the documentary, we see his relationship with his long-term former boyfriend, Kenny Goss. It is easy to see how they were together for so long, as they seemed so at ease and happy together. Kenny tells how they met at a spa, and George said he felt like Anselmo sent Kenny to him at a time of grief and sadness, when he needed someone to be there.
In the documentary, George also speaks about coming out, and his former bandmates tell about when he came out to them. We also learn about his court battle with Sony, to try to get them to release him from his contract, as well as the infamous moment in the park, which he turned to his advantage with the song, Outside. He and David even show the park.
We also get to hear about his work on Songs From The Last Century, his fourth studio album, produced by both he and Phil Ramone, and his politically-charged song, Shoot The Dog, a protest song against the Iraq War.
This is a stunning documentary about a very talented and lovely man, whom the world lost far too soon. Rest in peace George.
This documentary is a must-watch. To watch George Michael: A Different Story go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O17Bw7PhPV4
- George Michael on Anselmo Feleppa
- George Michael on Beating Drugs, Depression and His Outing in LA (GQ Magazine, 2004)
- George Michael’s Interview with the Gay Magazine ‘The Advocate’ (1999)
- George Michael’s Oprah Winfrey Show Interview (2004)
- George Michael Interview on the David Letterman Show (1998)