In the mid-60s, Janis Ian, a tiny, teenage Jewish singer-songwriter from New Jersey, scores a hit ("Society's Child," 1966) about an interracial relationship. The song launches her illustrious career but also ignites controversy, and she plunges into an emotional tailspin–only to emerge from the ashes with an even bigger hit ("At Seventeen," 1975) about body shaming. For the next six decades, Janis overcomes homophobia, record industry misogyny, and a life-threatening illness to produce an indelible body of work that continues to draw large audiences around the globe. Janis Ian and the Art of Song (working title) chronicles the singer’s epic life journey from her Jewish childhood on a chicken farm in New Jersey through the release of the disruptive album Breaking Silence which she leveraged to come out publicly about her same-sex marriage. With access to Janis Ian’s incredible body of music, her vast archive, family, friends, famed collaborators, and music journalists, the documentary balances the intimacy of a home movie against a sweeping historical—and contemporary—context.
Varda Bar-Kar is an award-winning filmmaker whose work focuses on meaningful stories that explore the breadth and diversity of the human condition. Her feature documentary Big Voice, chronicling a year in the life of a determined high school choir director, was acquired by Netflix and broadcast on PBS, winning a Bronze Telly Award. Her documentary Fandango at the Wall, about a gathering of song and dance in the 300-year-old son jarocho tradition at the border between the United States and Mexico, premiered on HBO/HBO Max. The accompanying album, Fandango at the Wall in New York, won a Grammy. She lives and works in Santa Monica, CA.