It’s been almost 30 years since Tupac Shakur was murdered , which means the hip-hop icon has been gone longer than the 25 years he has walked the earth. At this point, since we’re already in the third decade of mythologizing every aspect of his short life, the chances of the truth about Tupac being fully disentangled from the various exaggerated stories are slim.
Allen Hughes’s new FX documentary Dear Mama At least one coherent, ambitious, and sometimes productive approach. At five hours (and then some), the series feels overwhelmed, though in a way that reflects its prolific themes, and some of its connecting wobbles are misguided at best. But dear mom has some real insights into the intersection of late black activism and pop music century.
Bottom Line deals with the contradictions of its subject matter in a productive manner.
Air date: April Friday Afternoon (FX)
Director: Alan Hughes
Hughes The approach, one that has been filmed before in Tupac fellowship but certainly not to this depth, is a direct parallel to the life of Tupac and his mother Afeni Shakur.
Dear mother not so much27-90 focus split but even to Afeni Shakur 25 The percentage of screen time here can have interesting results. Afeni, the leader of the Black Panther Party, spent most of her pregnancy in prison alongside the future music superstar, becoming the so-called Black Panther . With no legal training, she represented herself in court. In some circles, she is a feminist standard bearer and a key figure in her movement against homophobia (a side of her biography is in Dear Mama
). She struggled with drug addiction, and during years of financial hardship, she was constantly uprooted and displaced, which affected her son psychologically, but not always in a positive way.
As Glo, Tupac’s aunt and Afeni’s sister, says in the documentary: “Where did Tupac get the mythical building? Afeni. And ‘Feni wanted to tell the story. Correct.’ It means blemishes and all, so people can understand what makes a human being.”
With this ambition, Glo is one of its most dynamic and lovable estates, Dear Mama
is very close sometimes. It still hangs on to a certain amount of mother-son biographies, but it’s a blemish and all biographies that try to juxtapose their wishes and reconcile their conflicts.
Trying is what Dear Mama does best. Hughes and editor/co-writer/producer Lasse Järvi made a five-hour documentary as Tupac’s mystery has no concrete “solution.”
Is he an artist lauded for his authenticity while coming from a performance background and seeing his public persona as another role to play? Absolutely. Does he have a lot of respect for women who have gone through a string of partners and gone to jail for sexually violent crimes? Yes. Is he becoming more and more out of control as his popularity grows? Or did he realize that giving the impression of being out of control increased his popularity and his public platform?
Speaking of that platform, is his music the gateway to acting dreams? Are both just ways to prepare yourself for your political future or something like that? Is he a compulsive workaholic because he has too much inside of him that needs to get out, or is it because he suspects that his lifespan is limited and he wants to do as much as he can within the limited time he anticipates? There are no answers to all of these questions, but Dear Mama wants to make sure you’re thinking about them throughout this documentary.
Of course, none of the people who appeared on camera had the answers. Hughes talks to family, members of his professional team, and collaborators at every stage of his career, from Snoop Dogg to the late Shock G to Gridlock’d
co-star Tim Roth. The talking heads care deeply about Tupac and protect Tupac, and decades later they are still in awe of Tupac, but they offer loving data points rather than insight.
These insights come from the way the filmmakers tried to put the film together, eschewing traditional linear narratives in favor of events from Afeni’s life – many of which are part of the Black Panthers. Colleagues are all in awe of her, which mirrors the way people talk about her son — with snippets from his journey.
Sometimes the result is chaotic provocation. The fourth episode interweaves Afeni’s post-prison struggles with Tupac’s increasingly obsessive and self-destructive tendencies in prison, prompting reflections on genetic trauma and recovery. There’s nothing concrete that directly connects these personal arcs, and no one talks about a conversation between the two Shakurs, but the thoughts are worthwhile.
Sometimes the results can be irritating. The third episode juxtaposes Afeni’s trial with Tupac’s New York City sexual assault trial, which only makes sense when you consider that being a political prisoner of the US government is the same charge Tupac is facing.
Just as fans didn’t always know what to do with the violent chapters in Tupac’s life, the documentary struggled there. The shooting of two off-duty police officers in Atlanta actually kicked off the series and has been treated as legendary, less as a crime than because of its connection to the premiere of “Dear Mama,” the indelible song. Quad Studios’ hastily shot process is all the more remarkable for how Tupac ends up recovering at Jasmine Guy’s home, part of an interesting family relationship — Guy wrote Afeni’s autobiography — that the documentary doesn’t really explain. The documentary repeatedly mocks any rivalry between Tupac and Biggie, let alone any connection between their murders, giving the impression of protesting too much, I think. Suge Knight is a menacing off-screen force that the likes of Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre have talked about vaguely.
It’s worth noting that, in a worst-case scenario, the person most directly associated with Tupac might be Hughes himself. After directing multiple early Tupac videos, Hughes removed Shakur from the Menace II Society, which instigated attacks that Tupac spent time participating in .
“For the record, Tupac didn’t hit me. Ten other bastards did,” Hughes told Snoopy behind the camera, which is about Hughes supposed to be in his own documentary Part of a long-running debate about how much role to play in The answer turned out to be “some,” but even after sitting down in front of the camera, Hughes was just another of those data points someone was able to say about what happened to him without fully understanding it. Tupac was a friend who was crucial to Alan Hughes’ career and Tupac’s early stages – or “10 The rest of the bastards in Tupac’s crew” – beat Alan Hughes to the ground. Again, it’s about wrestling, not solving.
At times, the non-chronological approach makes the documentary feel like it’s speeding ahead, skipping key details. At other times, circling back to itself makes the documentary feel repetitive and obsessive. Sometimes it feels like a critique of the ’90 hip-hop landscape, whose dualism is between gangster rap and party songs; other times it feels like Like worshiping that cultural moment and passing judgment on what is real and what is artificial.
Sometimes Tupac’s music gets lost or becomes an afterthought, and then you get an unseen performance that reminds you, “Oh, by the way, this guy is some kind of genius.” Sometimes , the documentary is about to lose track of Afeni entirely, and then it refocuses on speeches or appearances that have potential of their own. Dear Mama
Challenging, not always successful, but the challenge is true to the theme.