UPDATE: Investigating the claims made in comments about Noel Redding's book, I contacted Charles Cross. Read his reply at the end of the post, after the jump.

As history buffs will recall, the opening-night film of the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival was JIMI: All Is by My Side, a drama about Jimi Hendrix's early days in London, directed by John Ridley, who recently won the Best Screenplay Oscar for his adaptation of 12 Years a Slave.

I saw a preview screening the film and I found a lot to like about it. I loved the restricted time frame, appreciated the presentation of the fragility of a world-historic talent, and was even okay with the fact that the film contained no actual Hendrix songs—it wasn't his compositions but his blues-riff solos that made people pay attention at the time, and JIMI is the first would-be "rock biopic" that sent me out of the theater hungry to hear to the subject artist's work RIGHT NOW.

But then I read Rachel Belle's KIRO interview with Charles Cross, the well-known Seattle writer who authored the bestselling Jimi Hendrix biography Room Full of Mirrors, and felt like a motherfucking chump who's also maybe racist...

From Rachel Belle's interview:

So what did Charles think of the new film? "I hated it." He hated it because parts of the film portray Jimi Hendrix quite negatively. "The most shocking thing is Jimi is shown beating a woman twice. That woman is named Kathy Etchingham, who was Jimi's longtime girlfriend from London. He was with her for three years. She says that no domestic violence like that ever happened," says Cross. "In interviewing over 300 people for my book, I never heard a story that is even close to that."

In one scene, in a bar, Jimi yanks a payphone from Kathy's hand and beats her with it until her face is black and blue, and bleeding. "I just cannot say how offensive it is to me that an African American man is portrayed as a domestic violence creator, when this was not something that anyone ever told a story of Jimi Hendrix doing," says Cross

On her website, the real life Kathy Etchingham says she reached out to filmmakers and the actress who played her, eager to tell them stories for the script, but her messages were never returned. "Since the movie has come out I've talked to Kathy Etchingham a number of times and she's extremely upset about the way she is portrayed in this movie," says Cross. "When you're presented as if you're a victim of domestic violence, that is potentially libelous even in and of itself."

I watched those scenes with the requisite horror, and I believed they were included because they were true. Part of this is just being a dutiful/gullible audience member, but another part had to do with the fact that the film in question was made by an African-American artist, who I perhaps racistly assumed would never allow such a damning, stereotype-enforcing story to be attached to a historically significant African-American artist unless it was irrefutably true.

But the idea that the scenes were added for dramatic effect and in defiance of reality makes me want to vomit. I don't expect complete factual honesty from my biographical films. It's fine that the real Philomena never made that trip to America. But Ridley's ruse, if true, is inexcusable.

Thanks, Charles Cross, for speaking out.

UPDATE: After commenters mentioned recollections of Jimi's abusive behavior featured in the autobiography of Noel Redding, I asked Charles Cross about it, and here's his response:

"Noel did write a memoir but a lot of what is in there can't be trusted as he was fired and embittered. I don't have his book in front of me but I can tell you that twenty stories in there are off. There is one story that I did recount in my book Room Full of Mirrors, of Jimi in 1970, messed up on drugs at the time as sadly began to happen during that last year of his life, trashing his room, and getting into a row with his girlfriend that turned physical between them. But 1970 was a very different Jimi Hendrix than the 1966 model, and in this case the woman he is shown beating in the film— Kathy Etchingham, girlfriend for three years — says this event never ever happened during their relationship, with her or anyone else in Jimi’s life at the time."

So it appears Ridley felt comfortable tinkering with both the recipient and timing of Hendrix's abuse. If anything, this seems like a questionable artistic choice, not a failure of morality.

The ultimate moral: If you don't want your biopic to show you hitting a woman, don't ever hit a woman.