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Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell Documentary Film Review

★★★★ Stars

Directed by: #EmmettMalloy

Written by: #SamSweet

The image has a background faded shot of a street in Brooklyn New York, as a man’s portrait has been displayed more clearly on the right hand side of the photo. The image is entirely black and white except a cut out of the man as a child is placed over the left (on photo = right) half of his face, matching perfectly - this is in colour with a vintage hue present.

“This documentary features rare footage filmed by Christopher Wallace's best friend, Damion ‘D-Roc’ Butler, and interviews with his closest friends and family, revealing a side of Biggie Smalls that the world never knew.”

With 24 years since his death being marked in this upcoming week, Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell acts as a heartfelt tribute to the King of New York. This documentary incorporates friendship, strength, talent and hardships in its running time through touching footage that allows audiences to travel back in time, joining the Brooklyn artist on stage amongst roaring crowds - as well as behind the curtains in quiet hotel rooms across the country.

The use of this archived footage, following Wallace and his friends through growth in multiple forms, is presented to viewers in a predictable sense. The documentary presentation overall has nothing new to offer this particular film category; it’s the content that gives it a special spark rather than technique. The presentation and order of clips and events matches that of the usual documentary of this nature, but that doesn’t diminish how powerful it stands to viewers. I think Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell doesn’t need any extravagant elements within technique or for producers to try and over-express the footage included, it is perfect with this unfiltered type of approach shown in the final product.

There is one frequently used method in the editing (Will Znidaric, Neil Meiklejohn) that I personally enjoyed; this being how sections of audio from different pieces of footage are layered, whether that is combining two separate audios and creating something new or overlapping the same content. An example of this would be when, in interview sections of the film, the individuals begin to recite lyrics written by Biggie, and his own voice has been added to recite in time with them. Every time a decision has been made to do this it adds a great boost of energy and excitement in moments when viewers may least expect it. Although this is a documentary about the rapper himself, having his presence through voice so strongly evident from start to finish simply builds upon the impact the documentary can have – especially to fans.

The film in its entirety focuses on how Biggie grew alongside his friends and family - in personal development, moving through life stages, and in his music career. It is beautiful to watch footage of the rapper starting from a young boy with a found talent to a strong man who understands what path his passion should take him on. As much as I adored watching this growth unfold, I would have loved to hear and see more surrounding the specific growth of his music and recording life as well. There is a slight imbalance of these two aspects, although that may have been the intention; to show more of Christopher Wallace rather than of the Notorious B.I.G. Towards the end of this documentary, the content did feel a little rushed as well, but one could say that only mimics the death of the artist in a separate light: it happened at the peak of his career and as he was truly finding his footing. His life ended so suddenly, as if time had played a trick on the world and decided to fast-forward.

Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell is a brilliant Netflix documentary for fans of the artist, and also for those who would just like to learn a little more about how much Biggie really did change the course of hip-hop. I’m feeling incredibly inspired after watching this, yet saddened that the music industry lost such an influential source of power. However, that power will always remain on tracks...

“We’re just gonna do our thing forever. Forever and ever.”



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