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I Can Only be Mary Lane

Directed By: Jesseca Ynez Simmons

Director’s Statement

Like many works of documentary, the story is discovered and transformed along the way. I Can Only Be Mary Lane began as a retrospective documentary about many of the Blues clubs on Chicago’s West Side that have had to shut their doors over the years. Mary Lane was someone who could speak with authority on this because that was her scene. The more time I spent filming Mary talk about her time on the West Side, a scene that has faded away almost entirely, I realized Mary’s story was not only one of a kind but it was here and now and for who knows how much longer. Though I believe Chicago would benefit from a historical film paying homage to the West Side Blues scene, Mary encompasses the spirit of the West Side and continues to pursue her dreams despite many obstacles. Mary’s story is so rich and timely because she not only sings the blues, she lives the blues.

We approached the project as a traditional biography about Mary Lane that uses the production and release her latest album as the arc. In addition to gathering as much content from her past as possible to preserve for years to come, our film crew has followed Mary for over a year to capture her tireless efforts to record the CD, make her living by performing in Chicago’s remaining blues clubs and through the family tragedy of her husband (and bass player) having a stroke. We wanted to include these elements of her life to show how it fuels her singing. The film has an abundance of performances because this is when Mary lays bare her soul.