Heaven Adores You is the Elliott Smith documentary that fans have been waiting for. While the Kickstarter-funded film has yet to get a wide release, the early buzz from festivals has been positive. Less documentary and more bittersweet trip down memory lane, the film features interview with friends and collaborators along with archival footage of Smith himself. Heaven Adores You is also the first film of its kind to be allowed to use Smith’s catalog of beautifully heartbreaking songs.
A new clip from the film focuses on a fan favorite, “Miss Misery,” Smith’s song that was nominated for an Oscar in 1998 after it was featured in the film Good Will Hunting and thrust Smith into the spotlight, for better or worse. The snippet from the film focuses on the fall-out of that nomination on Smith’s life and career. Smith was never completely comfortable with his burgeoning fame and in the clip he notes, “I’m the wrong kind of person to be really big and famous.” That sort of introspection and self-awareness is part of what made Smith such a powerful and intimate songwriter whose songs still resonates with listeners more than 10 years after his death.
His music is part of the reason people are so excited about the film as it will feature approximately 20 pieces of previously unheard music from the singer-songwriter. “In many instances it’s not full songs,” Kevin Moyer, one of the film’s producers, tells TIME. “Rather pieces of stuff that he was working on and instrumentals, or stuff that he recorded early on with his childhood friends, or alternate versions of songs he would release later in a different form and similar. On top of that there is probably another handful of stuff that many fans have heard through leaks and similar, but not officially released — songs like “True Love” that we did a proper mix for and the Heatmiser version of “Christian Brothers” are a couple for examples. And then of course we have songs that are released on studio albums and are fan favorites too.”
Deciding which songs to include was a challenge, though. Smith released five solo studio albums before his death in 2003 and two other albums, 2004’s From A Basement On A Hill and 2007’s New Moon, were released posthumously. But there were still plenty of songs that most fans had never heard before. “It was an exercise of seeing what new stuff we could fit into the movie and get into the hardcore fans ears, while also balancing it with stuff that people could find on released albums, and finding a way to use it in a way that helped to tell the story of Elliott in a relevant way,” said Moyer.
The film has only screened in two cities so far (San Francisco and Toronto) and there are two screenings planned for this weekend at AFI DOCS in Washington, D.C. “We have already received distribution offers,” said Moyer, “I think we are going to push through as many festivals as we can do so that we can get the movie to as many people as we can that way, and then we will decide on proper distribution either during the festival run or maybe after.”
Moyer added, “It is our plan for it to be available to everyone everywhere in a wide variety of media and formats, including DVD. We just don’t have a date or any details yet.”