Interview: Sacha Jenkins, RZA & Crew – Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men (Documentary TV) | 2019 Sundance Film Festival
The Wu-Tang urban legend has been told again and again—but never before in such full scope as in Sacha Jenkins’s four-part doc, Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men (Parts I & II premiered at Sundance; the package was acquired by Showtime for a spring release.) The series lives up to its John Steinbeck-inspired title: in both its exploration of an American classic, and its socio-political commentary on the human struggles behind the legend of the golden ‘W.’
Sacha Jenkins, the chosen one, was the perfect man for the job. A veteran Hip Hop journalist, Jenkins gave Wu-Tang their very first zine cover back in the ’90s—now he produces and directs. He EP’d Netflix’s 8-episode Rapture, a meditation on old-school vs new school Hip Hop; he directed Fresh Dressed, a Hip Hop fashion doc that premiered at Sundance 2015. He’s always been obsessed with investigating the source of cultural phenomena that most fans take at face value.
Previously unseen in Wu-Tang’s cold world of darts, daggers and death, Jenkins handles their tale with a sensitive touch. The group’s origins as a family—born of social injustice and cruel purlieus—are presented unflinchingly. Jenkins conjures Tolstoy’s definition of art: communicating feeling to his audience while scrutinizing the pain that helped shape the Clan’s voice. Jenkins goes both deep and wide: in the segment where Ghostface reflects on the racist graffiti he had to look at every day, it does more than elicit sympathy; the film actually suggests a re-definition of traditional masculinity in the rap world.
However: Pain notwithstanding, this series is full of fun. There are hilarious shots of the nine living clan members in a movie theater—half of them wearing sunglasses—debating who came up with which slang. Even better, the typical talking heads are cleverly energized by digitally-rendered effects.
Also bear in mind that Jenkins had help. Backing him up is the Wu-Tang mastermind himself, RZA: one of the most influential voices in Hip Hop history … and in the art world today. RZA has scored Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog and Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, plus he’s a filmmaker in his own right (The Man with the Iron Fists). You may remember his single-copy album, Once Upon A Time in Shaolin, that sold for two million dollars in 2015: a clever think-piece on how digital music sales are stealing artists’ livelihood. Currently, the vaunted super-group sensei is co-creating a fictionalized Wu-Tang Hulu series. A master craftsman, RZA is always striving toward professional and personal evolution. Check below for our interviews with Jenkins, RZA, Ghostface Killah and Executive Producer Chris Gary before their series premiere.