Love to Love You, Donna Summer will stream on HBO and HBO Max on May 20
Brooklyn Sudano — the youngest daughter of the late Disco Queen Donna Summer — is remembering her mom in her later years.
In light of Summer's upcoming HBO documentary titled Love to Love You, Donna Summer and Mother's Day on Sunday, Sudano — who co-directed the film — opened up to PEOPLE about the mom that she knew, months before her death in May 2012.
"She and I spend a lot of time together during that period of time. And even for us, we were always very close, but I think there was a certain understanding that you have," Sudano, 42, says of the "Last Dance" singer, who died roughly 14 months after she was diagnosed with lung cancer.
"My mom was always so strong and so direct about how she wanted to do things. I think it was the first time where she allowed me to step up and care for her in a different way, and receive it. We're both really strong-willed," she recalls. "So, it was really an amazing... Hard time, but amazing time as well that we got to spend. I'm sure it's also part of the reason why I ended up doing this film, because I did get to spend such a meaningful time with her during that last year."
Through this documentary, Sudano says that she developed a lot of "grace and understanding" for her mother — and saw her as a "human being" rather than a parent for the first time.
"I understood she did the best she could with the tools that she had. After doing this film, I realized, 'Oh my gosh, she did amazing with all that she went through.' And I have so much more respect and love and appreciation for what she was able to give to my sisters and my family and me, not just in monetary terms, but emotionally and spiritually. It was so abundant and I feel very grateful for her in that way," the Taken actress says.
The film, which was co-directed by Sudano and Roger Ross Williams takes "an in-depth look at the icon as she creates music that takes her from the avant-garde music scene in Germany, to the glitter and bright lights of dance clubs in New York, to worldwide acclaim, her voice and artistry becoming the defining soundtrack of an era," per a release.
"A deeply personal portrait of Summer on and off the stage, the film features a wealth of photographs and never-before-seen home video footage — often shot by Summer herself — and provides a rich window into the surprising range of her artistry, from songwriting to painting, while exploring the highs and lows of a life lived on the global stage," the description continues.
The film features never-before-seen home videos of the "Hot Stuff" singer in her later years — which both Williams and Sudano thought would make a vital focal point.
"When you see my mom in those unguarded moments, she's super funny, silly and very creative. Our life was, until the day she died, about creation," she says. "Everything was about creating a beautiful flower arrangement or a beautiful meal or a beautiful home. Her sensibility was as a true artist, always to be creating, always to make something more beautiful or more of an experience. And that was a constant throughout her life."
Reflecting on her mother's happiness in those later years, Sudano pauses and says that she had "joy in the moments."
"She had joy in knowing that her family showed up for her and that... She wanted to keep it private. We all respected that, and it was hard to do that, but it was something that she felt she needed to have in order to fight the fight that she wanted to fight. So I think that there was a lot of joy, even in those tough moments for her," she explains.
After she had some time to grieve, Sudano realized that fans of Summer needed some closure — and the film ended up being her passion project. Love to Love You, Donna Summer at its core "peeled back the layers and goes beyond what everybody perceived as this glamorized persona," she says. "She's a person and an artist and a mother."
"The documentary is a labor of love. Everything about my mother was really about love, at the foundation of it. Love and bringing people joy and healing," she says.
Sudano adds, "I count it as one of the greatest experiences of my life up until this point. I'm a different person as a result of it. And to be able to be on this side of it now and to have audiences and people experience it and respond very positively, thankfully, I have a lot of gratitude, because I feel like she'd be happy."
The film will be available to stream on May 20 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.
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