Lauren Lazin got on a plane headed for Park City, Utah, last Monday, a day later than expected, with a hi-definition videotape under her arm. The tape held her three-year labor of love, Tupac: Resurrection, a feature-length documentary on the slain hip-hop star Tupac Shakur. Lazin and editor Richard Calderon had finished editing the film over the previous weekend, and it screened Wednesday evening as part of the Sundance Film Festival -- the first time anyone involved with the film, including Lazin and Calderon, had ever seen it on the big screen. The response was enthusiastic -- and deafening.
"The film looked really good," says Lazin, MTV's longtime senior vice president and executive producer of documentaries. "The sound was really good. I'd forgotten how funny Tupac is -- there was a lot of laughter in the theater. Tupac took over. It was his show."
Unlike the small-screen storytelling that Lazin has produced over seventeen years at the network, this film was told entirely in Shakur's own words, rattled out of his mouth over the course of 115 minutes. "If you're going to take a film into the theater setting, your subject has to be big enough for the screen," Lazin says. "This guy was a movie star. He can hold that kind of an audience.
"I've always wanted to do something different -- that wasn't Behind the Music, that wasn't an E! True Hollywood Story -- a new kind of filmmaking that was told entirely from the subject's point of view. There's no narrator in the film, no experts, no interviews with other people. It's all him."
Lazin chose her subject for this project very quickly. "I could sense this swelling feeling for Tupac among the younger viewers," she says. "Kids who weren't into music when he was around -- really young kids relating to him and identifying with him, feeling connected to his story. It was really sort of a sociological interest: Why do so many people care about him still? He really has become an icon, and that's not a term I use casually."
With the blessing and help of Shakur's mother, Afeni, Lazin systematically went through all of the available video, audio and print material that captures the rapper's life, cut short at age twenty-five by an assassin's bullet in 1996. The result is a lovingly rendered, warts-and-all look at the provocative star set to his own music. Tupac's intelligence and eloquence shine through as much as his brashness and often unfiltered statements riled feathers.
"It was really interesting to me that his mother was a former Black Panther and that she was really committed to revolution and change," Lazin says. "Those were very real words to her. He was the next generation: How do you carry on that promise? In some ways he did, and in some ways he couldn't."
A distribution deal for Tupac: Resurrection is in the works, and the film could hit theaters around the country later this year.