Hot Docs 2024: 'Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story' Is the Long Overdue Tribute to a Toronto Icon

Directed by Michael Mabbott and Lucah Rosenberg-Lee

Photo courtesy of Banger Films and the NFB

BY Rachel HoPublished May 8, 2024


When thinking of Toronto music talent, Jackie Shane is an often overlooked name — understandable considering how her name has largely been lost to music history. But thanks to Michael Mabbott and Lucah Rosenberg-Lee's new film, the incomparable Jackie Shane comes home.

Using a combination of archival photos and interviews with friends, colleagues and distant relatives (many of whom didn't know of their relation to Shane until her death), Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story attempts to put together the soul singer's story — a particularly difficult exercise given the lack of video footage that existed while Shane was active in the '50s and '60s, and her reclusive lifestyle in her later years.

To overcome that hurdle, Mabbott and Rosenberg-Lee play telephone interview audio with accompanying animation, including using rotoscope and superimposing Shane's pictures over Makayla Walker acting out the stories told. It's a creative, artistic solution, which lends a vibrancy to the film that dances nicely alongside Shane's music.

Though born in Nashville, Shane hopped the border into Canada in the 1960s to escape the Jim Crow laws of the South. Shane first landed in Cornwall, ON, and would soon make her way over to Montreal where she performed in the Saint-Laurent district, dealing with mob bosses and their associates. Shane would eventually create a home base in Toronto and develop a devoted following of Yonge Street regulars, before returning to the States to care for an ailing relative.

Any Other Way paints the portrait of an artist aware of her talents and in control of her craft — a talented singer who harboured pain and secrets beneath her confidence. The film discusses some of the racism Shane confronted in the US and in Canada, refreshingly taking aim at the racial prejudices that existed in Toronto's music scene.

Primarily though, Any Other Way considers Shane's sexuality in a time when language around transgender identities wasn't widely known. The film details how some suspected Shane was a lesbian, while others thought her to be an effeminate man. Today (and just prior to her death), Shane's identity as a trans woman is clear, and Any Other Way's retelling of this part of Shane's life serves as a reminder of how difficult and dangerous life was for trans individuals during this time.

Beyond the social and cultural struggles Shane encountered, Mabbott and Rosenberg-Lee's film highlights what a supreme talent she was. Shane's music is scattered throughout the film, showing off the range and artistry she possessed. The film breaks down some of her music, including the track that inspired the film's title, "Any Other Way," gleaning the coded language Shane used in her lyrics to undermine the heteronormative ideas of the day, especially around gender and sexuality.

In one of her final interviews before passing away in 2019, Shane said to Elaine Banks for CBC Radio's Q programme about Toronto, "One cannot choose where one is born, but you can choose your home. I chose Toronto. I love Toronto. I love Canadian people. I consider myself a part of them. The Canadian people have been so good to me."

Through Any Other Way, Mabbott and Rosenberg-Lee tells Shane that the love is reciprocated from the city, the country, and the music industry as a whole, even if it's over 50 years past due.

(National Film Board of Canada)

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