“Ben Zand hears from the people Kanye West grew up with, the artists and campaigners who work with him and those who more recently have been insulted by him, as he explores some of the defining themes of Millennial America - race, politics and mental health.”
So a documentary about Kanye West that doesn’t interview the man himself? To say the least, I was a bit sceptic about how this would work.
Kanye is a very complicated, and some may say, strange person. I personally consider him more of an artistic genius (although I know some other members of the geeky Brummie team might not be as kind). But, how though do you represent and discuss such a polarising figure? One who’s debatably at the peak of his controversy. It couldn’t help but intrigue me.
Part of what helps this documentary is the fantastic insight given by the contributors. For a change, it’s not A-listers who know the drill. It’s people he’s grown up with, followed him through various points of his career. Many give what is often safely phrased, but, it is raw unpolished, the opposite of Hollywood soundbites.
One of the most surprising things is said by one of Kanye’s mother’s friends.
Multiple media outlets have covered her saying that she wouldn’t have supported his relationship with Kim but something more important is also said.
She speaks of her “scratching her head”, over her sons involvement with Trump having been a prior devout democrat, and member of the Black Panthers activist group. This insight is interesting to say the least and helps paint the picture of the contradictions of Kanye.
These contributors serve as just part of how well researched the documentary is. It seemingly gives us a more personal connection to ‘Ye’ and those around him. This is supported by Ben Zand’s style of interviewing, giving a sense of authenticity, like we are overhearing these conversations as a passive participant.
If I’m pressed for criticism there is some lapses in quality particularly in regard to shaky camera movements and audio quality. For me it made it feel a little more amateurish., though I feel the intention was to support the more personal style of documentary making.
I don’t agree with Donald Trump for the most part, but to a degree this documentary has helped me glimpse what Kanye see’s in him.
It’s his way to help the impoverished in Chicago through jobs. Bringing labour to Chicago helps to fund the not only of those working there, but their families and investment in developing the city for the benefit of all..
I don’t think it’s clear what Kanye who he wants to be, I think he wants to be all things to all people, but struggling. It’s clear he wants to attempt to impact the world positively, in his view, by tackling issues within society. Myself, I think that’s a good way of living.
Worth a Watch?
Without spoiling it, the documentary does ultimately make you question the pressure Kanye is under to be a role model as well as to representing not just “the black community” but all black people.
Whether of African or Caribbean descent left, right working class, middle class, upper class. All whilst seemingly being an advocate for awareness around mental health and attempting to support his home city of Chicago.
I would definitely recommend this documentary whether you are a lifelong fan of Kanye or if you where even just mildly intrigued by his recent antics. Even if you are someone that doesn’t like him or misses “the old Kanye” I think you will find something you enjoy in this.
Searching for… Kanye was first available on BBC iPlayer for 11 Months 16th December 2018.