Wednesday, January 11, 2012

“LA Story”

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“LA Story”

Directed by Nick Broomfield
Produced by Nick Broomfield and Michelle DAcosta
Cinematographer Joan Churchill
Editors Mark Atkins, Jaime Estrada

A documentary film investigating the mysterious deaths of rappers Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls.
by Luciano Marzulli Vargas

Las Vegas,  after a highly publicized Mike Tyson fight, Tupac Shakur and Suge Knight jump into a car after their involvement in an alleged gang fight between Bloods and Crips in the MGM Grand.

LA Story. Theories about the deaths of Tupac and Biggie Smalls.

With Tupac in the passenger seat, a gunman pulls up to the car, firing at Tupac and missing Knight. In a city known for its high numbers of police officers and video surveillance, the assailants fled the scene unfollowed. Tupac was pronounced dead in a Las Vegas hospital on Sept. 1, 1996.

Los Angeles, Calif., March , 17 Biggie Smalls, once a friend of Shakur and a central figure in what was the East Coast/West Coast rivalry in hip hop is fatally shot and killed.

These tragic deaths are yet to be solved in what is now 2000.

Documentary film director Nick Broomfields’ latest work “LA Story” asks the question, “Why?” Why, to this date, do the deaths of rap stars Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls remain unsolved?

While attempting to answer this question, Broomfield puts forth theories regarding the connection of the two deaths while completely demystifying the idea that the slain rappers lost their lives as a result of the infamous East Coast/West Coast rivalry.

The opening scenes of the film display still photos of the shot-up vehicles in which Tupac and Biggie suffered their fatal injuries.

A confident and serious voice rises out of the silence as Broomfield begins to set the stage for his documentary. At first, Broomfield’s English accent might throw the viewer off, but the steady unveiling of evidence regarding the highly publicized yet undetailed, deaths will captivate the viewer, whether he or she followed the lives and music of the slain rappers or not.

Broomfield’s directing style is definitely unique in that he tells a serious story but is able to break the tension of the viewers so easily. Some of the quirkier moments come when he is narrating and the footage shown is his view from inside a vehicle as he blatantly runs a red light in the streets of L.A.

Incorporated throughout the film are old home videos of Tupac and Biggie, each on their own, as well as interviews with friends of the late rappers, former body guards and Tupac’s teacher from his actor training. On separate occasions, Tupac’s biological father spoke in front of the camera, as did Biggie’s mom.

Each rapper’s story was told from the time of boyhood to their close friendship and ultimately to their tragic deaths.

Broomfield puts forward the argument of former Los Angeles Police officer Russell Poole, that Suge Knight, the CEO and president of Death Row records, arranged the murder of Tupac because of the fact that Knight owed Tupac $10 million in royalties and because Tupac was in the process of leaving Death Row records at the time of his death.

With claims that Knight held some power within the Bloods, employed a district attorney and had at least 20 officers of the Los Angeles Police Department working for him, some of whom were made famous with the Rampart scandal, the possibilities for a conspiracy theory increase in magnitude.

Evidence of the fear Knight instills came through in interviews with former employees of Death Row records. These interviewees hesitated to make incriminating statements, even while Knight remained behind bars.

The widely accepted explanation for the death of both Tupac and Biggie is rooted in the East Coast/West Coast rivalry in hip hop.

The rivalry initiated over rappers from each coast, West and East, denying support for each other. Tupac and Biggie just happened to be central figures due to their fame.

When Tupac was shot and imprisoned a few years before his death, fellow inmates told him that Biggie was to blame for the shooting. As the story goes, their once friendship dissolved and Biggie’s supporters killed Tupac and Tupac’s supporters killed Biggie a year later in retaliation. Case closed?

As far as law enforcement is involved, the case appears to be cut and dry, but after viewing Broomfield’s documentary, the story becomes extremely complex.

Revealed in the documentary is evidence heretofore unheard of like the fact that the inmates who told Tupac of Biggie’s deadly vendetta were actually federal agents employed to create dissidence within the hip hop community, as well as information on the aforementioned power wielded by Knight.

Central to Broomfield’s work are the testimonies of former Los Angeles police officer Russell Poole, he was fired from the force when he revealed to a superior that he had come across information tying officers in the LAPD to Biggie Smalls’ death. Even though Poole’s lawyers took measures to prevent their client from speaking with Broomfield, he did it any way.

To support this idea, Broom field tracked down one of Biggie’s former body guards who was with the rapper at the time of his fatal shooting.

When presented with photos of LAPD officers, the former body guard quickly identified LAPD officer Harry Billops as Biggie’s murderer.

This kind of evidence begs the question, was Billops working for Knight? Did Knight have Biggie killed to draw attention away from himself?

The story becomes so much more interesting and shocking the deeper one falls into the mix. Although it’s not addressed in the film, some question whether Tupac is dead or not perhaps faking his own death to take himself out of the lime light.

Broomfield did a great job of organizing all the information that was available to him, he even contacted an FBI agent for questioning, but was denied any comments.

The questions surrounding Tupac’s and Biggie’s deaths are numerous.

Some have answers, others only theories. One thing for sure is that this story will go down in history, begging to be solved, and if the truth ever surfaces, those who followed the tragedy will surely be shocked and amazed.

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