Lil Nas X documentary 'Long Live Montero' goes beyond his 'provocative' art at TIFF

TORONTO — A new documentary that follows Lil Nas X on his first tour aims to show a deeper side of the genre-transcending artist.

"Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero," which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, follows the singer after the success of his 2019 single "Old Town Road," the longest-running No. 1 single on the Billboard charts.

Lil Nas X, born Montero Lamar Hill, speaks candidly in the doc about coming out as gay and navigating his newfound success in hip-hop and country — two genres that have not historically been welcoming of LGBTQ+ musicians.

Hill says the film shows a "real side" of him that is more nuanced than the lighthearted and comedic nature he's known for on social media.

"This is like the end of an era of my life going right into the next one," Hill said at the red carpet premiere of the documentary on Saturday.

"It's a bittersweet moment because sometimes you get lost and you have to find yourself again, and this film I feel like is showing me in that state of confusion before (the) me now, who he feels like he has it figured out again."

"Long Live Montero" features backstage footage and live tour performances, as well as glimpses into his pre-fame life.

The filmmakers followed Hill as he forged friendships with tour dancers and reconnected with his family after his sudden rise to fame.

After "Old Town Road," Hill overcame assumptions he would be a one-hit wonder by delivering a number of other chart-toppers, including "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" and "Industry Baby," both of which drew attention with music videos that included LGBTQ-positive and overtly gay imagery.

"He's an artist who's been very provocative in his art, in his imagery," said the film's co-director Zac Manuel.

"I think (on) this tour, the performance was actually very sensitive and it was very exposing of who he is, and very intimate," Manuel said.

"That was surprising to me and also wonderful to see that it wasn't just about spectacle — it was actually about learning a bit about his heart and sharing that with everybody who came every night."

Hill's father said the singer has always been a "creative soul" and it was clear from a young age success was in his future.

"He was always a smart kid — I thought he would be a doctor or a lawyer — he could have been anything he wanted to be," Robert Stafford said.

"I knew he was going to be great," he added.

"I just didn't know what he was going to be great at."

"Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero," screens again Thursday and Saturday at TIFF.

-With files from Kiernan Green

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2023.

The Canadian Press