The Principles: Tupac Shakur, Afeni Shakur.
The Premise: The turbulent life and violent death of the most controversial rapper in history is told by the man who knew him the best…himself
Is It Good: Yes, in a very haunting way, because essentially, the movie is being narrated by the dead man that’s on the screen. Before 1996, I didn’t know much about Tupac Shakur other than he had been the best thing in Poetic Justice, and had also portrayed a crazy mofo in Juice. “California Love” was burning the airwaves when I moved to Los Angeles, and I came to know his music. But before I could really appreciate him fully, he was gone. Like the rest of the world, I’ve had the last few years to discover – love him or hate him – what an iconic, conflicted and talented performer Tupac was.
Considering the fact that media schlubs like David Koresh, Amy Fisher
and John Bobbett could at least get crap TV movies made about them, one was
left to wonder how this man, the Black community’s version of
Elvis had to wait nearly a decade to have his story
truly told. Well, as Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur, has to say
in the film, rather than do a dramatization of his life, she wanted to
have Tupac’s story told by the man who was best about talking about
Tupac Shakur – Tupac himself. The result was Tupac: Resurrection an
informative and insightful documentary narrated via old audio clips,
family pictures and interviews from the man himself during various
stages in his short life: from high school in Baltimore right up until
his last interview at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards – three days
before his fatal shooting in Las Vegas.
Even potentially dry material such as old family photos
are given a hip makeover via inventive editing and are carried nicely
the entire way by Tupac’s earnest voiceovers. The most haunting is the
narration from Tupac’s commenting on getting shot as we see vistas of
Las Vegas and the intersection where the bullets rang out. Of course
the narration was culled from an interview that Tupac gave after his
first brush with death in a 1994 shooting in New York, but more
prophetic words were hardly spoken by anyone. First-time director
Lauren Lazin put together what could best be described as a two hour
music video diary. With the voluminous appearances by Tupac, speaking mostly
with former MTV VJ Tabitha Soren, and the fact that Tupac’s music is
released more frequently than most living rappers, I felt like I was
simply watching Tupac do press for his latest project. It’s like he’s
Worth A Look: Yes. Resurrection gives a much more complete picture
about what kind of man Tupac was than a conventional documentary might. Also, through news and file footage
clips, we see him in early performances with Digital Underground, the
hip hop group that gave Tupac his start in the industry (make sure to
check out the footage of Tupac humping a blow-up doll on stage, which
shows how far he was willing to go to make it). We also see him on
tour, during private moments before copulating with a groupie (probably
groupies), driving through the streets of LA, attending house parties
and award shows, spitting at cameramen, and a high school music video
with Jada Pinkett Smith that has to be seen to be believed.
Tupac’s story can’t be told without hitting upon the darker elements
his life, and Resurrection doesn’t try to skirt any of these issues with
the audience. Tupac’s brushes with the law are also featured,
including his run-in with police in Oakland, where he filed a civil suit
for police brutality after he was arrested for jaywalking. I don’t use
the phrase “alleged” police brutality because Tupac had the scars, fat
lip and black eyes to prove it. Resurrection also touches upon his
later court appearances to answer charges of assault and sexual assault,
for which he went to prison for eight months in New York. Tupac
conducted interviews from prison and also gave a prison deposition in a
case where he was being sued by the widow of a police trooper who was
slain in the line of duty by a guy who claimed he had listened to
But the most fateful chapter of Tupac’s story – and the most
telling part of Resurrection – covers the last two years of his life.
This is the time when he joined Death Row Records, which was run by music
(and literal) heavyweight Suge Knight (please don’t kill me Mr.
Knight). It’s also when he was robbed and shot five times, which sparked his overly-publicized feud
with The Notorious B.I.G. and Sean “P. Diddy/Puff Daddy/Puffy/Diddy” Combs.
Cutting through all the crap, the heart of the matter is whether or not
Biggie and Puffy knew/planned the attack that ignited the feud. Tupac
says that they did, Biggie and Puffy said they didn’t. Tupac says he
was the only one there for the whole thing. But since Tupac and Biggie
are no longer around, it’s
left to the public to make up their minds on this subject.
Like any documentary to be made about him, though, Tupac: Resurrection couldn’t bring closure to the Tupac Shakur story
because there currently is no closure possible. The men who killed
Tupac have never been caught, no arrests have ever been made, and the
investigation has long since been shelved. By now everyone knows the
theories surrounding Tupac’s death: Suge was responsible, Biggie was responsible, hell O.J. may
have been responsible…. Nevertheless, Tupac: Resurrection delivers in
it’s mission to allow Tupac to tell his story in his own words.
Anecdotes: This film was where it all started for me and CHUD. This DVD review, which was never used, was my “audition” for the site. My correspondences with Dave Davis led me to seeing this and getting the gig, and six years later, here I am full circle. Thanks again, Dave.
Cinematc Soulmates: Biggie & Tupac, Notorious.