In 1991, director Alek Keshishian came out with one of the most acclaimed and successful music-themed documentaries of all time, Madonna: Truth or Dare. More than three decades later, he explores the experience of another pop star and actress in his Apple TV+ documentary Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me

The director sees significant differences between Madonna and the young woman at the heart of his new film. 

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“Madonna was a really armored person. She almost enjoyed that sparring [with paparazzi], and Selena is a much more vulnerable human being, immediately,” Keshishian said during an appearance at Deadline’s Contenders Television: Documentary + Unscripted virtual event. “I’m not saying Madonna isn’t vulnerable as well, but Madonna was in her 30s when she did Truth or Dare… What I noticed about [Selena], which was different to most pop stars and celebrities that I met, was she didn’t seem to have any guile. She had no armor. She had no persona that she would put on. So that was really intriguing to me.” 

Keshishian and Gomez originally talked about him doing a documentary focusing on her 2016 Revival tour, but when he began shooting, he realized “things were really going off the rails” for the then 24-year-old recording artist. They paused the project for several years, a period during which Gomez was treated for bipolar disorder.

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“In 2019, when she came out of the mental health facility, she reached out to me. I was one of the first people she saw when she came out,” Keshishian said. “I immediately sensed that now there was a much deeper, more interesting documentary than a tour doc. It was a documentary about a young woman coming out of this facility, recovering and learning again how to exist with her diagnosis.”

The documentary has been praised as “sincere and soul-bearing.” The New York Times called Gomez “boldly unguarded.” To help the director make his film, the singer and Only Murders in the Building star provided him with her journals – contained in “two giant boxes,” Keshishian says. Paradoxically, the filmmaker describes his subject as “a very private person. She’s not someone who is seeking to reveal this stuff about her. But I think our partnership was about doing something that was perhaps bigger than both of us, which was to help other people.”

Check back Monday for the panel video.

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