Attendees at the 2022 ESSENCE Festival of Culture were among the first to view a preview of the new film surrounding the life and legacy of music legend Tupac Shakur.
Aptly titled Dear Mama, it’s easy to tell from just one short clip that this film is unlike any other documentary we’ve seen about Tupac, as it’s sure to reveal sides of the artist yet to be seen by most audiences. Following the initial screening, audience members sat in on a panel with Director Allen Hughes and ESSENCE Senior Entertainment Editor Brande Victorian, listening intently as he explained the process behind making the film and what inspired him. Allen revealed he received a call from the family of Tupac, and even though he had an initial hesitance since the two had their well-documented issues when Tupac was alive, they assured him that “to know and love Tupac” is to go through things like that with him.
From there, Hughes decided to take an unconventional approach to learning about the polarizing Hip Hop icon and his early years by getting to know him through the eyes of his mother, Afeni Shakur. Although there have been a plethora of films about Tupac made before, it was the angle of Dear Mama originally intrigued FX. “Anybody who knows Tupac knows that he and his mother are like twins,” Allen revealed, explaining that Tupac and his activism, as well as his drive to fight for what he truly believed to be right, all stemmed from his mother, who had an incredible knowledge of the reality of the struggle, not only of Black people, but specifically Black women. “This is an eternal struggle,” Allen stated, “And she knew that.” Later elaborating further to explain his reasoning behind centering the documentary around Tupac’s relationship with his mother, Allen described Afeni as “an authentic Black woman” who inspired Tupac to create a lot of music that uplifts Black women. “I don’t know of an artist today who has two of those songs,” he added.
When discussing some of the challenges of creating a documentary about Tupac, Allen recalled that one of the hardest things was that most of those within Tupac’s circle, or even on the outskirts of his circle, considered themselves the closest people to him. When commenting on how he tried to overcome this issue, he simplified it by noting that, “Documentary filmmaking is like an archeological excavation project.”
Hughes finished his interview with a few words on how this documentary stands out from others made before about Tupac. “I just felt like the things that had been done before weren’t a full portrait of him.” ‘Dear Mama’ is set to premiere this Fall on FX.
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