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Film review: “All Eyez on Me”

By Fabian Van Onzin

A film that is worth seeing

Houston, TX – In the last six months, there have been a few really good pro-Black films: Moonlight, Get Out, and Sleight. The most recent addition to the list of Black Lives Matter era films is director Benny Boom's All Eyez on Me, a movie that chronicles the life of rapper Tupac Shakur. Unlike some films about famous rappers such as Get Rich or Die Trying (50-Cent) and 8 Mile(Eminem), All Eyez on Me has a strong focus on the political dimension of Tupac's music. It also gives a beautiful portrait of his life and the incredible passion with which he made great hip hop music.

The film begins with a voiceover giving a stirring speech about the fight against racist discrimination and the struggle for Black liberation. After the opening credits, it starts with a scene of a Black Panther rally, in which we see Tupac's mother, Afeni Shakur, being released from prison after doing time for her political activities. The first few scenes highlight his mother’s political commitment in the Black Panther Party, and also focus on his stepfather’s role in the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) organization. There is an interesting scene, in which Tupac is attending a class about African-American history taught by his stepfather Mutulu Shakur at the Republic of New Afrika school. He tells the youth, “You must be willing to live for something, and you must be willing to die for something.” The film then follows the way that Tupac put this principle into action by committing his life to making socially-conscious hip hop music.

Throughout the film, All Eyez on Me tries to draw a historical continuity between the Black Liberation Movement of the sixties and Tupac's music of the nineties. There is one scene in which Tupac's mother states that her son is a new Black leader and that his music is a new movement for the liberation of Black people. In the film, Tupac continually emphasizes how his music can allow oppressed people a voice to directly discuss their struggles and empower them to resist against this oppression. There is one scene in which Tupac stands up against the owners of Interscope Records because they demand he tone down his music to make it more marketable (particularly criticizing his song Brenda’s Got a Baby). Director Benny Boom depicts Tupac as someone who put his principles before money and fame, with the intent of inspiring change through his music.

The film also shows how the FBI will go to great lengths to silence revolutionaries who fight for the liberation of oppressed people. In the first part of the film, there is a scene in which Tupac's father is on the front of a newspaper as a wanted man, and his mother is harassed and followed by FBI agents. There is a scene in which his home is raided by the FBI, who arrest his father for his political activities and bring about false charges against him. I found this scene to be disturbing, as it reminded me of my fellow comrades in the anti-war movement who had their homes raided by the FBI in 2010 and continue to face political repression. The film emphasizes the terrible brutality of the FBI agents and the police.

Once Tupac is famous, his mother warns him that the state will go to great lengths to silence him, both through direct repression and through promoting a destructive lifestyle. Throughout the film, we see the police harassing Tupac, we follow him in prison and witness the crimes that the police commit against him, and see how the bourgeois media continually tried to ruin his career. The film tries to show how Tupac stood by his principles and remained a good person even when many were trying to destroy him.

All Eyez on Me gives a very accurate depiction of his life, his path to becoming a successful rapper, and the struggles he faced throughout his life. Demetrius Shipp Jr. does a great job acting as Tupac, and even resembles him – some scenes it looks as if Tupac had risen back from the dead. All Eyez on Me is a must-see for everyone, whether one is a Tupac fan or not.

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