(June 6, 2016 – Toronto, ON) Tempest Storm is a remarkable documentary that had its World Premiere at this city’s Hot Docs festival in April. A Canada-Germany-France co-pro, the 83-minute film from Toronto-born director Nimisha Mukerji, explores the controversial life story of America’s most iconic exotic dancer, who at age 87 (now 88) is trying to reconcile with the family she walked away from more than 50 years ago. Tempest Storm returns to Toronto and the Hot Docs Cinema on June 17. Distributed by Mongrel Media, it opens in Vancouver on June 18 and will roll out to other cities during the summer.
The film raises issues of class, gender and race. Tempest Storm was declared one of the sexiest women of all time by Hugh Hefner and iconized by cult filmmaker Russ Meyer. She was bedmate to both Elvis and JFK, and became an international star on the stage and screen in the 1950s. But she also lost Hollywood contracts after pursuing an interracial marriage with Duke Ellington’s lead singer Herb Jeffries. Fame itself also came at a cost. In the film, we see Tempest, hoping to reconnect with her siblings, ex-husband Herb and estranged daughter.
Born in a leap year, Tempest came from humble beginnings as a cotton picker in rural Georgia and likes to point out that she is really only 22 years old. Today, she maintains her fiery red hair and a figure that still slips into her showgirl costumes from decades gone by.
Tempest Storm uses never-before-seen photos, archival footage and interviews, merging her dramatic past (abusive childhood, four marriages) with an emotional cinema verité unfolding in the present. Interviewees include Tempest (who has always remained private), Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall and famed drummer Jimmy Fox from The James Gang.