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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 104 Minutes
· Commentary with directors Denis Henry Hennelly and Casey Suchan, as well as film subjects Chang Weisberg, Brian Valdez, and Carla Garcia.
· Who is Wu-Tang?
· R.I.P. O.D.B.
· Dirty’s Last Days
· Alternate Opening
· Artist Profiles
· Extended Interviews
· Extended Scenes
Dave Chapelle’s Block Party meets Gimme Shelter…minus the killing.
The RZA, The GZA, Masta Killa, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Raekwon, Ghostface Killa, Method Man, U-God, Inspectah Deck, Capadonna, Chang Weisberg, Carla Garcia, Brian Valdez, and many, many, more.
We follow 2004 Rock the Bells concert promoter Chang Weisberg about 48 hours (and counting), until the first gathering of the entire Wu-Tang Clan in nine years. Intercut with interviews with members of the Wu-Tang Clan, managers, journalists, family members, DJ’s, and many others, we get a fascinating look at how difficult it was to set this up, the history of Wu-Tang, and how close it came to not even happening.
While watching this, I couldn’t help but think of Dave Chapelle’s Block Party. Both focus on a small group of people trying to organize and set up an ambitious gathering of well known hip hop and rap artists. What Rock the Bells does better then Block Party is showing the down and dirty details of how difficult it is to get over 10,000 people in a venue, how difficult it is to get the entire Wu-Tang Clan together in one place at the same time, and how easy it is for things to go wrong.
The first half of the film focuses on Chang Weisberg and his right hand men and women rushing around town. Chang goes out at three in the morning, wrapping telephone polls (illegally) with concert posters. Thousands of fliers are passed out around town. Chang’s production manager, Brian Valdez, attempts to take care of a legal pad filled with lists of things that need to get done. Carla Garcia, Chang’s right hand woman, haggles with last minute flights for Wu-Tang, and makes cash deals with special guests who need a little bit more money. Especially special guest, Redman, who we see on the phone haggling for cash and pot.
The ambitiousness of the documentary allows for dozens of intimate scenes with all the players involved. There was a camera and camera operator for every member of Wu-Tang as they arrived, for every pre-show guest, for Chang, for Carla, for Brian, and dozens for the crowd, backstage, and for the thousands waiting in line. One of my favorite moments is when Redman arrives with his son Reggie. Redman tells Reggie he has to go and Reggie starts to cry. Redman kisses him and gives him a hug and tells him "What have I told you about that tears shit?"
Around half way through the film, the pre-show for the concert starts and this is where the film really takes off. Several DJs start the show off, and go a bit too long. This results in a pretty hilarious scene with Brian Valdez as he nervously walks back and forth and attempts to tell them that they need wrap it up. And one of the best scenes of the whole film take place here, when free-style rapper, Supernatural, takes the stage and proceeds to own the place. He gets down off the stage, stands with the crowd, and raps an entire song about items that the crowd hands to him. It was seeing music being created right in front of you, and it brought the same type of lyrical joyousness that the music creation scenes in Hustle and Flow brought.
As this is all happening, things are not going well for Weisberg. Problem number one: after a few calls, they’ve found out that Ol’ Dirty Bastard is at his hotel, so baked out of his mind that he can’t walk or talk. Problem number two: there are thousands of people waiting in line. They’ve been waiting in line for hours, and they’re getting unruly. Fights break out. Chang tries to calm them down, but to no avail…they rush the gate. Around this part the film turns into an odd sort of heist film as Chang walks $70,000 in cash off the premises in a large box, covered by a towel, surrounded by an unruly mob.
From here on out, the film builds to a fascinating and tense climax. Much of it is focused on Ol’ Dirty, and he’s actually made out to be a villain of sorts. He insists that he won’t come out of his hotel. That he just doesn’t want to be there. But then Ol’ Dirty’s history is explored. We get interviews with his mother and the rest of the Wu-Tang, and how his drug problems and (especially) his jail time, turned him into a completely different person. He was paranoid, thinking that everybody was out to get him, and it really turns him into a sympathetic character, especially considering that he died four months after the concert.
The film ends up being about more then just a concert documentary. It’s about the persistence of three people keeping more then 10,000 people happy. The directors weave this thread in and out of the history of the Wu-Tang Clan and how important they are to the fans and to the hip hop industry.
Quite an array of features to choose from, all of them worthwhile. All of them seem like they would have been in the documentary had they not had to whittle the over 200 hours of footage into an hour and 40 minutes.
Whether you’re a fan of hip hop or not, this is a fascinating documentary, and one worth finding if you can. The power of Ol’ Dirty compels you.
9.5 out of 10