Herman Leonard

By Erica Meus-Saunders

I’ve been a Lenny Kravitz fan for years and have been following his music and acting career for quite some time. Nu Woman did our first feature on Lenny back in 2010 at the premier of the film “Precious” at the Bahamas International Film Festival where Lenny picked up his first acting role.

Lenny Kravitz by Mathieu Bitton

About a week or so back I picked up a buzz online about this new documentary film on Lenny Kravitz by Mathieu Bitton. I was keenly interested and started browsing around online. I came across the trailer on Mathieu’s fan page and after watching it, I knew that I had to talk to him about this film. I sent him a note, and he responded and was more than willing to talk with us. This process took place over a few days, back and forth via Facebook, emails and telephone. Here is part of that interview with Mathieu Bitton.

Nu Woman: How did the concept for the movie/documentary come about?
Mathieu Bitton: I was touring with Lenny in 2009 and he was calling a friend to ask him to connect him with a director to make a film on a new album. I was sitting across from him and made “a face”. He got it and said, “Oh yeah you could do it!”

NW: Why this documentary now?
MB: It was supposed to be released at least a year ago but with some label and legal issues, was put on hold. I am glad it is coming out now so people can really see the brilliance of this album “Black And White America.”

NW: Three years is a long time. How did you keep the project ‘fresh’?
MB: Every day is a new day. And we did a couple tours while we were working on this so the world was our canvas and energies shifted constantly.

NW: Whose idea was it to do the documentary?
MB: Lenny’s.

NW: Your friendship with Lenny spans decades. How would you say this has contributed to this final product?

MB: Well just how you can’t buy love, you can’t buy trust and access, which are almost everything in a documentary like this. And with a long friendship comes trust and access. So I believe I was able to show the real Lenny, uncensored and raw. No BS.

NW: Are you pleased with the documentary?
MB: I am very pleased that I was able to show the experience as it was. MY whole intention was raw and real and to give the viewer a “fly-on-the-wall” experience. I shot 99% of it myself with no fancy equipment, no lighting, no crew. If there was camera movement, I kept it in there so the viewer could move with us.

Mathieu Bitton by Polina Rabtseva

NW: Who came up with the title?
MB: I did based on a song title from the album. Not only my favorite song, but a perfect title for the experience. And now that it’s coming out nearly a year and a half after the release of the album, I think it’s a highly appropriate title. Everything happens for a reason.

NW: Were you always into music, film and design?
MB: I grew up with fashion design parents. I was obsessed with music as a little kid. I started collecting vinyl around 10 years old. I still do. And I always loved film and film posters, which I collect as well.

NW: What propelled you in this direction?
MB: Passion and Instinct.

NW: Whose idea was it to have the film released via iTunes?
MB: We wanted a forum with easy access to the world. There may be other venues later, as well, but iTunes is so instant, it’s perfect. We just want to share the experience.

NW: You are multi-talented: photography, CD design and filmmaker… Which skill brings you the most pleasure?

MB: Pleasure comes from an internal feeling caused by my visual and aural senses. So any one of these can bring me the utmost pleasure. I usually get very excited about every project I do. But I am very excited to pursue film on a larger scale.

NW: What are you expecting from this film in terms of audience feedback? What message would you like them to take away, or remain most dominant in their minds?

MB: I don’t set myself up with expectations. However, I want people to walk away from this with a “Wow! Lenny is an amazing musician, a real human being and a funny guy” and “Wow! I didn’t know he played all these instruments!” I just want to share what I have been privileged to witness for all these years. And the most important quality I’ve witnessed is his discipline. In every capacity. There is no secret to having a successful career for nearly 25 years. It takes amazing discipline.

NW: What are some of your fondest memories in making this documentary?
MB: There is a very touching part of the film with legendary Jazz photographer Herman Leonard that takes place in Eleuthera and Los Angeles. Herman is by far the most amazing human being I got to become friendly with in this experience. He was very encouraging to me and my photography. I had a poster of his classic Dexter Gordon smoking photo when I was 12-14 in France. He was already a part of me. I can’t wait for people to see that part of the film. We used to sit by the water and have conversations for hours in French and English. He will be in my heart forever. He passed away in 2010 shortly after we filmed that sequence.

Here is what Lenny had to say about the film.

“So ‘Looking back on Love’ is out now. I am honored to share the raw experience of my life and making of ‘Black and White America’. It is a time that I will always cherish. Let love rule”.

Find the documentary exclusively on iTunesMusic-

Mathieu Bitton is a French born, Grammy Award nominated Art Director, Photographer, Producer, Designer and Dadaist. He has designed over 650 CD’s and is a world renowned collector and authority on Black Films. He is credited for producing a few albums such as, the Transformers franchise and Terminator Salvation soundtracks. Along with this, Mathieu has designed many film posters, including Kevin McDonald’s “Marley,” Jane’s Addiction’s “A Cabinet Of Curiosities” and Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition” boxed sets, along with a new Lenny Kravitz CD.

You can find Mathieu on Facebook at:

Mathieu Bitton ‘Looking Back on Love’ screening at USC with Lenny Kravitz trumpet player Ludovic Louis by Neftalie Williams

Read the complete interview with follow up comments in Nu Woman’s Spring 2013 issue.

Mathieu Bitton ‘Looking Back on Love’ screening at USC with Vince Wilburn Jr., by Neftalie Williams

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Mathieu Bitton ‘Looking Back on Love’ screening at USC. Poster by Neftalie Williams

© 2013 Nu Woman magazine. All rights reserved.

Mathieu’s photo by Polina Rabtseva.

Premier photos by Neftalie Williams (

Lenny Kravitz’s photo by Mathieu Bitton.