New Whitney Houston Project Infuriates Her Estate

There's a new Whitney Houston documentary that's currently in production. This time, Houston's life before fame is the central focus. The documentary, titled, Whitney Houston in Focus, is directed by Benjamin Alfonsi in conjunction with photographer Bette Marshall. Marshall and Houston were close friends, meeting when Houston was just 18 years old. Within three years, Houston would sign to Clive Davis' Arista Records and shot to music stardom. Marshall captured Houston through a photographer for seven years. There's also an accompanying book Marshall is publishing, set for release in Feb 2022 in commemoration of Houston's 10-year anniversary of her death. 

Houston's family, however, is not a fan of the project. The estate says they were not contacted for their permission. "The Estate of Whitney E. Houston is not involved in any way with this documentary and no one came to us for permission," the estate writes to Deadline. "We are saddened to learn that Bette Marshall who had a relationship with Whitney and her family over 35 years ago (and not since) did not reach out to the family at all. We will not be cooperating in any way with this, nor will we support or approve of any music licensing to the project." Houston's family is working on a biopic, the first authorized project from the estate.

Alfonsi is shooting back at Houston's estate in his own statement. "My film Whitney Houston in Focus, and the book upon which it is based Young Whitney: Stories and Photographs by Bette Marshall, is an elegant and quietly moving tribute to the legacy of Whitney Houston," he wrote. "At the heart of both the film and book are Bette's tender reflections about a sweet girl with a voice touched by God—and an incandescent star quality to match—that foretold her destiny."

The project is special to Marshall, who intends to honor Houston's legacy in a special way. "Bette's memories of Whitney, and the stunning photos she took between 1982 and 1986, are a beautiful chapter in the history of Whitney Houston," Alfonsi continued. "My film is the complete opposite of the exploitative film treatments in recent years that have may have sought to tarnish Whitney's memory. I did not seek nor did I require any permissions from the Whitney Houston estate to tell this story of a photographer and her one-time muse, who became one of the biggest stars of all time."