Review of “I Am a Noise” featuring Joan Baez: An intimate documentary about the renowned folk singer and activist.


This documentary focuses on Joan Baez, a folk singer and figure of the counterculture movement. It delves into her personal life and uncovers a difficult and sensitive revelation, though it doesn’t explicitly state it.

The movie chronicles Baez’s 2018 Fare Thee Well farewell tour, which was captured over a span of several years. It includes an interview with her sister who has since passed away, as well as touching scenes of Baez caring for her elderly mother, who has also passed away. The film showcases Baez’s captivating performances in various venues across the United States, with notable figures like Bill and Hillary Clinton visiting backstage to revel in her genuine protest reputation.

The text revisits her extraordinary life and professional journey as a prominent figure in the protest scene and the anti-Vietnam movement. It also delves into her romantic involvement with Bob Dylan, which ended in heartbreak. Interestingly, her voice is still in top form, unlike Dylan’s rough and gravelly tone. The text also mentions her family’s Quaker beliefs, which greatly influenced her strong sense of social responsibility, as well as her marriage to anti-war activist David Harris, who served jail time for evading the draft while she was pregnant. Surprisingly, there is no mention of her relationship with Steve Jobs, whom she also dated.

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Mimi Fariña, Joan’s sister, also pursued a career in music but was overshadowed. On the other hand, Pauline, another sister, had no interest in music but was still very much aware of Joan’s overwhelming fame. Despite her success, Joan suffered from stomach aches and panic attacks since her youth and has been undergoing psychotherapy since she was a teenager. The reason for this is revealed in the movie through a vast collection of tape-recorded therapy sessions and what seem to be recorded letters addressed to her father, scientist Albert Baez. In these letters, Joan discusses recovered memories of abuse from people close to her. However, her father also wrote a letter expressing his belief that these recovered memories are not accurate.

What specific memories are being referred to? We are shown numerous boxes of tapes, some of which may have provided clarity, but the documentary only hints at the topic Joan is discussing. Even after the film ends, we cannot be certain that we have not misinterpreted the subtle implications. This can be frustrating, but it also serves as a poignant reminder of how memories can linger and affect us in our later years, even without full understanding. It is unfortunate that Baez has retired from touring, especially when other musicians like Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney continue to perform, but there is also a sense of dignity in her decision.


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