jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy is a behind the scenes look at one of music’s most controversial figures. In 1998, Coodie was an aspiring stand up comedian and host on Channel Zero. A chance meeting with a young producer named Kanye West led to Coodie deciding to follow the young West and document his life a la Hoop Dreams. Coodie had a feeling West would be a star, but he had no idea what was in store.
There are plenty of moments that will stand out at the Sundance Film Festival world premiere. The fact that in 2002 he joked about dropping his last name and just becoming “Ye”; impressing Blackstar after a concert with Two Words; telling a reporter he wants people to look back on his career and say “did you know that guy used to write beats?” All of it is fascinating, but jeen-yuhs excels in its most personal moments.
Due to its intimate nature, jeen-yuhs is able to delve into the personality of a young West. What is captured on camera is a motivated and driven young man who was not going to let anything stop him from succeeding. In many ways, the documentary is an inspirational tale. Even as others ignore West and even try to take advantage of him, he still pushes forward. It is also a look at the supreme confidence he had even as an unproven rapper. In a great moment, he goes in to the offices of Roc-a-Fella and raps “All Falls Down” to anyone who will listen.
The camerawork is personal and frenzied. While it may be too much to call Coodie an active participant in West’s story, he is definitely an important part of it. The director is often impressed and at times even seems in awe of his subject. Along with leading to the music video for “Through the Wire”, it also chronicles the formative years of one of the 21st century’s biggest stars.
Another big part of jeen-yuhs is the relationship between Kanye and his mother. Donda West is a centering force in her son’s life. Before all the controversies and media spotlight, Kanye West still had a lot to deal with in his life. The scenes with his mother are some of the most emotional and interesting in the film. It is in these moments, West seems most at ease with his life.
The news that Ye wants to have final final edit and approval before the film is released on Netflix is somewhat disappointing. For obvious reason, he would not be able to objective which may hinder the narrative. As it is, jeen-yuhs looks at West before he became a part of the regular news cycle. It is a fair look at the man and the most honest examination of Kanye West available.
The Sundance Film Festival is online January 20- January 30. Tickets can be purchased and a full lineup can be found here.
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