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Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Erykah Badu Headline ‘Lilith Fair’ Documentary (Exclusive)

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Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan’s 1990s all-female music festival Lilith Fair is the subject of a feature documentary from the CBC and director Ally Pankiw.

The first Lilith Fair, which McLachlan spearheaded to defy a male-dominated music industry that couldn’t envision more than one woman performing on a concert stage or on a radio playlist, kicked off on July 5, 1997.

Over a quarter-century later,  Dan Levy’s Not A Real Production Company and Elevation Pictures are co-producing Lilith Fair, with interviews by McLachlan, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Erykah Badu, Natalie Merchant, Mýa, Jewel, the Indigo Girls, Emmylou Harris, Brandi Carlile and Olivia Rodrigo.

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The original ladies-first Lilith Fair tour from 1997 to 1999 attracted artists like Crow, Tracy Chapman, Fiona Apple and Liz Phair from across the music world, and went on to help launch the careers of performers like Missy Elliott, The Dixie Chicks, Nelly Furtado and Christina Aguilera.

The documentary, authorized by McLachlan, is inspired by the 2019 Vanity Fair article Building a Mystery: An Oral History of Lilith Fair, by writers Jessica Hopper, Sasha Geffen and Jenn Pelly. And it draws on more than 600 hours of never-before-seen archival footage, interviews and stories from fans, festival organizers and artists of Lilith Fair, an antidote to mainstream tours like Lollapalooza dominated by flashy male artists.

Despite being a commercial success over an initial three summers, the documentary recounts how the Lilith Fair tour saw its first female headliners often marginalized and the event itself become a cultural punchline on Saturday Night Live. The lesson of Lilith Fair — that women artists could have their own stage on which to perform and feel safe — underpins the Canadian documentary.

“Lilith Fair exemplifies the ‘cool older sister’ of the music industry, who already knows the joys and nightmares of being a woman and tries to make the path a little bit easier for future generations. I want to give a deeper understanding of the festival to the young female, nonbinary and queer musicians and music fans who picked up a guitar or tickets to a concert for the first time because Lilith showed them how,” director Pankiw said in a statement.

Pankiw directed the full first season of the Netflix comedy Feel Good, starring Mae Martin, and episodes of the Hulu series Shrill and The Great. The CBC will premiere the feature Lilith Fair during the 2025-26 season, and sales agent White Horse Pictures is shopping the film internationally.

“What Sarah built with that festival changed so much for so many people. And while it is now seen as an odds-defying success story, it was an uphill battle every step of the way. And there is a lot to be learned from that story. I’m thrilled to join Sarah on this adventure and am excited for everyone to understand just how revolutionary Lilith Fair really was,” Levy said in his own statement.

Lilith Fair is produced by Levy and Christina Piovesan, with White Horse Pictures’ Cassidy Hartmann, Nicholas Ferrall, Nigel Sinclair, along with Jeanne Elfant Festa, Noah Segal, Jessica Hopper, Arthur Spector, Joshuah Bearman, Joshua Davis, Pankiw, Steve Cohen, Paula Froehle and Wayne Isaak sharing executive producer credits. Rachel McLean serves as supervising producer and the cinematographer is Nina Djacic.

The film is also backed by McLachlan’s Lilith Fair co-founders Terry McBride, Dan Fraser, and Marty Diamond, who will executive produce alongside Lynne Stopkewich, Jessica Fraser, and Dean English.

The documentary is presented by Chicago Media Project and produced in association with Epic Magazine, Carlene Laughlin, Minderoo Pictures and the Elfant Festa Family. Elevation Pictures will release Lilith Fair theatrically in Canada.  

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