5 Points from Tupac Biopic: "All Eyez on Me"

5 Points from Tupac Biopic: "All Eyez on Me"
courtesy Lionsgate

All Eyez on Me is an interview-timeline style biopic that explains the life of the iconic artist Tupac Shakur (directed by Benny Boom) The story begins as a journalist, (Hill Harper) comes to record a lengthy interview with Tupac (Demetrius Shipp, Jr), while he is incarcerated for a rape conviction sentence. During this time, Tupac explains his childhood upbringing, school and street education, and background events leading up to his current situation. The interviewer asks him several probing inquiries about his actions in a way that appears as his inner conscience.

There are 5 Takeaway points that I embraced:

1. Tupac revolutionary and martyr-

In the film, Afeni Shakur (Danai Gurira) was pregnant (with Tupac) when jailed for allegations of crimes associated with the Black Panther Party. She was later acquitted of her charges in the Black Panther 21 trials in 1971, winning the case and acting as her own lawyer. Her leadership in Black Panther Party programs empowered the black community. Also, Tupac’s step-father Mutulu Shakur (Jamie Hector) was another of leader in the organization and entered the FBI’s most wanted list for many years.

Tupac Shakur would inevitably become targeted for his revolutionary lyrics and philosophical enlightenment of oppressed peoples, especially in black communities. He became highly educated but both his mother, Afeni and the streets raised him. The confusion lay with a black male torn between two worlds, a man-child still waiting and actively planning for the promised land for his oppressed people. He was a lyrical perfectionist and a philosophical genius.

2. Chicago Connection-

One of the producers, LT Hutton (who knew Tupac personally) came back to Chicago to introduce the “All Eyez on Me” Experience while tying in similarities of the times with disparities that are still going on in the poor black communities of Chicago today. LT Hutton imagined this film as a celebration and re-telling of the life of Tupac Shakur. While doing research, filmmakers used old video footage, pictures, interviews, and consulted celebrities and stars directly connected.  The score is comprised of some Tupac’s most influential music along with Digital Underground (Shock G), Notorius Big (Jamal Woolard), SWV, Frankie Beverly and Maze, etc.

3. Tupac’s in-depth knowledge of world literature comes from Afeni Shakur teachings including Shakespearean plays, world literature and philosophies.

Afeni Shakur encouraged Tupac and his sister to be scholars and analytical thinkers, not only for enlightenment, but also for survival on the streets and in the real world. Tupac became a culmination of artistry meets knowledge and soul of the streets. He became well versed in Shakespearean plays, various world literature writings, economic systems, and biographies of the great historic leaders (ie. Machiavelli).

4. Duality of man and the Gemini-

The film “All Eyez on Me” came out on what would have been Shakur’s 46th birthday. Gemini zodiac signs are said to have two personalities or opposing forces. But also there is a presence of dual mindedness. I can only reflect upon my experience with this film by referencing W.E.B Dubois theory “double consciousness”.

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder."(The Souls of Black Folks, 1903)

Also, this theory is emulated by recently watching the film by the poet James Baldwin “I Am Not Your Negro”, who speaks of both the celebrations of black culture and the horrors of victimization of African Americans in a white racist society.

5. Legacy and ownership of intellectual property -
Tupac realized the importance of  intellectual ownership and striving for creative control. However, after he died Afeni Shakur and his family struggled to gain over 100 masters and money from his estate (not in film). Tupac joined Death Row Records collaborating with such artists as Snoop Dogg (Jarrett Ellis), Dr. Dre (Harold House Moore), Treach (Ryan Lawrence), The Outlawz, etc. While at Death Row, he had the freedom to be creative, although he was bound to Suge Knight (Dominic L. Santana)/Death Row because of unresolved financial obligations. Today, musicians like Chance the Rapper are able to become independent artists because of people like Tupac that sought creative independence and financial freedom from large conglomerate companies.

Tupac's life was riddled with conflict because of his short temper, shady associations, and negative media attention. As a young man in his twenties, he needed better guidance and direction from elders in the black community. I believe he never go that. I do however remember Maya Angelou saying in an interview that she calmed an angry young actor (Tupac Shakur) on the set of “Poetic Justice” (not seen in the movie). The alleged conflict with East/Coast West Coast rappers (Bad Boy) was a turning point in the film, but it didn't define the whole perspective or the man Tupac was.

Throughout the film, Tupac is conflicted too about becoming a leader in the black community and a role model. He explained (to Interscope Records) that “Brend’s Got a Baby” was about a 12 year old African American girl that was tragically murdered and raped. The story was featured but got pushed under the rug because she was a poor black child. Tupac wanted to tell the untold stories of the black community and what was happening on the streets from a black males' perspective. The only difference is that he was a highly educated black man that wanted to give back, but struggled to achieve his dream up bringing the people out of darkness.

This film makes a great attempt to re-create the scenarios surrounding Tupac's life. I was never a real hardcore Tupac fan. I just wanted to see a new side of his story. His relationship with Jada was brief, but seemed a respectable re-creation of the story. We have to remember, this is NOT a documentary! The actors did an excellent job especially Demetrius Shipp, Jr. who not only looks like him, but has the mannerisms down also. I would have liked more selections of music, too.

I liked the story. I know that you only have 2 hours to cram a lifetime worth of events into a film. Tupac’s life can really never be explained in a film. I see that now. It should have been a mini-series. But I do applaud the producers for attempting to tell the story and re-imagine Tupac’s perspective. Watch the film to see an interpretation of his relationship with his mother, sister, Jada Pinkett (Kat Graham), and fiance Kidada Jones (Annie Ilonzeh).

I recommend that people should see this film to get a better glimpse of his background. Tupac Shakur existed a complicated, yet brilliant artist ahead of his time. Virtuosos like these are rarely ever completely appreciated during their lifetime, always immortalized by a shroud of mystery, leaving behind a vast historical legacy and empire.As a product of black society and American prejudice, Tupac sought to tear down a racist system by using his voice to empower and enlighten while speaking of untold stories of black perspectives. The world has never seen anyone like Tupac and the world never will again.

writers-Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez, Steven Bagatourian
producers-David Robinson, L.T. Hutton, James G. Robinson

This film is a Code Black, Lionsgate release.

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