In the vein of inspiring stories like Next Goal Wins, Step, Spellbound, and Undefeated comes Choir. The powerful six-part Disney+ docuseries, directed by two-time Emmy-winning filmmaker Rudy Valdez, is a must-see for anybody who values heartwarming stories about a group of people attempting to achieve a challenging goal.
Produced by Imagine Documentaries and Blumhouse Television, Valdez also serves as an executive producer alongside Jason Blum, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, and others. The outing tracks the kids of the renowned Detroit Youth Choir (DYC) as they prepare to achieve a new goal: finding newfound success after several pivotal America’s Got Talent (AGT) appearances. Expect to experience the ups and downs of navigating school, family, athletics, and, of course, pursuing dreams.
The series follows director Anthony White and his choir following their 2019 appearance on AGT. Facing combined challenges of replacing several key members and keeping the choir relevant in Detroit, there’s the push to discover their next big opportunity in the national spotlight. Valdez opened up with MovieWeb in this exclusive interview. Dive in.
Why He Had to Make the Docuseries
- Release Date
- January 31, 2024
- Blumhouse Television, Campfire, Maniac Productions
- Number of Episodes
Rudy Valdez is a diverse and passionate storyteller. He aptly captured Grammy-winning musician Carlos Santana in the recent documentary Carlos. He previously won an Emmy for The Sentence, which tracked the aftermath of his own sister Cindy’s 15-year sentence for conspiracy charges related to crimes committed by her deceased ex-boyfriend. The genesis of Choir began shortly after Valdez moved from the East Coast back to Michigan, where he was born and raised. The idea of coming back to Michigan and telling a story in his home state about his home state was something that appealed to him very much.
“I knew a little bit about the Detroit Youth Choir before they were on AGT,” he shared, recalling how he heard the group was heading to the popular talent show. “I’d been developing other projects in and around Michigan and Detroit, so they always sort of popped up as this amazing little organization. Funny enough, I was out on a shoot somewhere in the world, I don’t remember where it was, and it just so happened that when I was done, I got to my hotel, and AGT came on the television, and there they were. I got to watch the Golden Buzzer moment.”
What a moment it was. With a powerful rendition of Can’t Hold Us featuring rap solos and slick dancing, the entire audience—and the judges—were impressed by DYC. Valdez went on to say what he hopes to achieve in the documentary:
“Oftentimes when people are telling stories about people of color in inner cities, especially Detroit, the media tends to follow these tropes and those stereotypes about what it means to grow up in a city like Detroit and go through organizations like this. I wanted to come at it with a different lens. I wanted to not weigh down this story and these kids with preconceived notions of what Detroit is or what growing up in Detroit is. I wanted to lead with their story and allow them to be emblematic of what it means to grow up in Detroit. Because I firmly believe if you go into Detroit and you look for bad and shine a light on bad, you can find those. But if you go in with a lens looking for beauty and agency and hope, you’re going to find that too. I wanted to go in with that lens. I wanted it to be on these kids and really allow them to shine without an asterisk next to them, without a, ‘You’re living in poverty, but look how great you are.’ They can just be great.”
Spotlighting Amazing Young People
Valdez said that one of the hardest parts of the shoot and the editing that followed was deciding upon how many “amazing kids” and “wonderful stories” to feature. “We only had six hours, and we didn’t want it to be going into the lives of 30 different kids or 30 different staff members and parents and all these things. We tried to let the stories come to us organically.”
Big standouts included teenage Azaria, whom Valdez thought had “a very magnetic personality and this sort of comfortable but reluctant camera presence. She wasn’t somebody who was like, ‘Put the camera in my face. She was more like, ‘If you’re going to do it, that’s fine. I’ll figure it out.’ I liked that tension of not wanting to mug for the camera.”
Kaylen Roy was another student who captivated all around. “We came to him a little later in the series,” Valdez noted. “I was at one of the choir’s performances, and they were doing a soundcheck, and I hadn’t heard him say two words for months. And he just goes out on the stage for a sound check and starts singing and my ears pop up. I immediately grabbed my camera and started filming him.
The result is an uplifting endeavor, enjoyable for the entire family. At the heart of it, however, is Valdez’s mission to tell heartwarming stories.
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“Representation is always important to me. These kids being able to watch themselves on camera and really see themselves be the heroes without asterisks is powerful. It’s something you can show your community—that if you put love out into the world, if you care about something, care about people, and I think especially when dealing with kids, have high expectations of them and believe in them, some wonderful things can happen.”
“I hope audiences can watch this story and be uplifted by these kids striving for greatness and wanting to be a positive representation not only of themselves, the Detroit Youth Choir, but of the city of Detroit and youth in general,” he added. “I think so many kids these days kind of get a bad rap of being kids are just staring at their phones, but here’s a group of kids who are not only excelling in this choir and in all the things that go along with it, but also, they all get great grades, they’re all doing multiple things, and they’re putting so much into life. You don’t always get to see that.”
Choir is streaming on Disney+. Watch the trailer below.
Stream on Disney+