The theatrical release is the first documentary to be authorized by the late singer's estate

By Joey Nolfi
April 28, 2016 at 03:17 PM EDT
Alain BENAINOUS/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Oscar-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald is bringing the world one step closer to telling Whitney Houston’s story, as EW can confirm that film distributor Altitude is working with the director on a feature-length documentary that will delve into the late pop icon’s life.

Altitude, who released last year’s Oscar-winning music documentary Amy, has planned a theatrical release of the film for 2017. The untitled project is the first documentary to be officially approved by Houston’s estate since her death in 2012, and will include interviews with Houston’s family, friends and collaborators, including Clive Davis, the founder and president of Arista Records largely credited with aiding Houston’s rise to prominence.

The film will not shy away from depicting Houston’s struggles with addiction, aiming to present an “unvarnished” look at the highs and lows of her life. “The story that is never told about Whitney is just how brilliant she was as an artist; by many measures she had the greatest voice of the last 50 years. She changed the way pop music was sung — bringing it back full circle to its blues and gospel roots. She was also completely unique in being a black pop star who sold in countries where black artists don’t traditionally sell,” Macdonald said of Houston, whose career of 200 million worldwide album sales inspired a generation of singers from Mariah Carey to Lady Gaga and Beyoncé.

The One Day in September director also said the production will have unprecedented access to footage and materials from Houston’s early life for use in the film. “[The footage] charts her whole life from her beginnings singing in her Church’s gospel choir to the day of her tragic death at the age of 48, and three decades of her music including exclusive demo recordings, rare performances and audio archive,” Macdonald said in a press release. “Although we won’t shy away from the darker parts of Whitney’s life — her descent into addiction — I want audiences to walk out of the cinema and feel positive about Whitney and her music. I want to reveal a woman that even her most die-hard fans never knew; and a woman those new to her life and music will never forget.”

Two-time Academy Award-winner Simon Chinn (Man on Wire, Searching for Sugar Man) is producing the film, adding that the project will be “one of 2017s biggest cultural highlights” as Altitude will handle the film as a “major tent-pole release.”

Having only secured U.K. distribution rights, Altitude will present the project to international buyers at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in May.