Princess Shaw is having her media moment

princess-shaw-samantha.jpgSamantha Montgomery photographed at the Sundance Cinemas in Los Angeles by Iris Schneider.

Samantha Montgomery is having her moment. Visiting Los Angeles to promote the documentary "Presenting Princess Shaw," which spotlights her rise from YouTuber to internet celebrity, her joy is infectious. Montgomery, who took the moniker Princess Shaw from someone she heard about, never let go of her dream of being a singer. She has been writing songs since her teen years and despite a life of hardship, living with abuse and poverty as a child growing up, she has channeled that anguish into her music. She writes her own material, and began posting on her very confessional YouTube site at nights after working her job as a caregiver for the elderly in her adopted home of New Orleans.

Meanwhile, a composer in Israel, Ophir Kutiel, known as Kutiman, who trolls YouTube in search of interesting music and musicians, began orchestrating her a cappella posts by pairing her voice with snippets of music from global artists who had posted their songs on YouTube. As he is described in the film, while he listens to these You Tube posts, he doesn't just hear music, he hears notes. He puts those notes together in a pastiche of orchestration, or mashups, that enhances Montgomery's beautiful and soulful voice. Her confessional posts touched Kutiman's heart, as they do ours, and the project became much more than just a musical exercise.

Enter director Ido Haar who sensed a movie in the making. He flew from Israel to New Orleans and told Montgomery that he was doing a film on YouTubers, and began following her life. Juxtaposing scenes of her dealing with her daily challenges and her YouTube postings, with Kutiman alone at work on his computer in his modest Israeli home on a kibbutz in the Negev. The tension is palpable and you can't help rooting for Princess Shaw to attain her dream, all the while knowing what she does not know: that someone is watching her and working hard to make her dream come true. A friend who saw the film said, "This is the best movie I've seen about the internet." And it does highlight what good can happen when the stars align.

By the time Princess Shaw and Kutiman meet in Tel Aviv, where she is flown after the project goes viral to perform at the Israel National Theater with a live orchestra, they have become kindred souls and embrace as though they have known each other for years. In fact, it is the first time in the film that Kutiel breaks out into a brilliant smile.

The film is an uplifting and powerful tribute to creativity and the human spirit and how the internet can bring together people who are miles and worlds apart. As for Montgomery, she is happy to have had the chance to sing before an audience. Whatever else the future holds, no one can ever take that away from her.


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