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Friday, November 14, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
The music's good, but there's little new in 'Tupac: Resurrection'
By Tina Potterf
While Shakur was cognizant of his status and influence on his fans, he was uncomfortable being labeled a role model; it was a distinction he often downplayed. Instead, he wanted people to own their identities, to construct their own path in life and follow their dreams, not live through the lifestyle glorified in the music that made him a multiplatinum-selling icon.
Now, more than seven years after his death, comes a new documentary that aims to shed light on the life and times of Shakur.
"Tupac: Resurrection" is a documentary-style film from MTV Films and Amaru Entertainment, directed by Lauren Lazin. It's the first film to be made in collaboration with Shakur's mother, Afeni Shakur, who's also an executive producer.
While "Tupac: Resurrection" includes some never-before-seen family photos and performance footage, and excerpts from the late rapper's journals, it offers little in the way of new information or insight into the rapper's world.
Like the countless articles and news reports leading up to Shakur's death, "Tupac: Resurrection" recycles the so-called East Coast-West Coast rap feud, as well as the night Shakur was shot numerous times at a New York City recording studio and the Las Vegas shooting that ultimately took his life.
Through interviews, concert footage and music, "Tupac: Resurrection" traces Shakur's life from his childhood and youth in New York (and later Baltimore and Marin City, Calif.) to his role as community activist and successful actor/poet/rapper. Some of the film's most powerful and intimate moments occur when director Lazin explores Shakur's youth, shedding light on how he felt about his mother's membership in the Black Panthers and how he was polarized by two worlds: the one of hardcore, street-wise rapper and that of an educated artist who studied Shakespeare and classical dance and music at the Baltimore School for the Arts.
As home videos and family photos poignantly show a young Shakur with a bright smile and a seemingly happy disposition, the rapper recalls, in his own words taken from interviews years later, how difficult those days were.
"If I hated anything it would be (poverty)," Shakur said, but later acknowledged how "the poverty helped me relate to everybody's struggles."
The film features several performance clips from Shakur's work as a rapper and actor from his days in Baltimore, to his stint with the rap group Digital Underground, to the movie set of "Poetic Justice" with co-star Janet Jackson.
The bright spot of "Tupac: Resurrection" is the music; cuts from Eminem, 50 Cent and Shakur, among others, serve as an effective backdrop to different periods in the rapper's life.
The documentary's shortcomings, however, diminish its significance.
Rather than interviewing Shakur's family or friends today to offer a different or fresh perspective on the rapper's life, Lazin relies too heavily on overplayed video clips and dated interviews to fill in the blanks. The result is a film with an engaging soundtrack and a few intriguing moments, but, overall, has the pacing and depth of a rap-music video. A nearly two-hour rap-music video.
Tina Potterf: 206-464-8214 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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