Sacha Jenkins has done it again, bringing his intimate yet explosive style of journalism to give us the story of notoriously outrageous funk genius Rick James. Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James was snagged by Showtime at the Tribeca Festival, and they’ve released the trailer for our funky pleasure.
The film focuses on one of rock, funk and R&B’s most legendary and often underappreciated figures. The doc shows rare footage of phenomenal live shows, James’ home videos, interviews with legendary artists, collaborators and friends, and unflinching interviews with Rick James. We get to see the full arc of James’ astounding rise and fall, while also focusing in on the ‘Punk-Funk’ music he left behind.
Jenkins known for having previously directed Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics And Men, Burn Motherf*cker, Burn!, Word Is Bond and Fresh Dressed, says, “The ‘wild’ side of Rick James often eclipses his musical genius, but the mathematical equation that is his life depends on all of the numbers to make a whole,” Jenkins said. “Our aim was to create a balanced portrait of a brilliant artist who both chased his dreams and stalked more than a few demons. Still, his influence on funk and popular music and culture is unparalleled, and his eventual rise to the top is easily more compelling than any freebase rush.”
“This film is yet another striking work from Sacha, as he continues to document and contextualize the most iconic figures and events that have shaped the contemporary Black experience in America,” Showtime’s nonfiction programming chief Vinnie Malhotra said with Tuesday’s announcement. “In this case, he’s really gone deep to illuminate the artist beyond the headlines and show the musically groundbreaking path of Rick James, without shying away from the painful and difficult demons he battled throughout.”
Although the film shows his genius collaborating with Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Nile Rodgers, Eddie Murphy, Teena Marie, The Mary Jane Girls and M.C. Hammer (which he won a Grammy for co-writing), it doesn’t shy away from his substance abuse and his widely-covered prison stint involving kidnapping, assault, false imprisonment and torture.
The generations that did not grow up in the disco was introduced to Rick James by the sketch comedy of Chappelle’s Show. Chappelle captured the gritty and the funky in his mockumentary of Rick James. He shows him wild and funny and troubled, but the through-line was highlighting an extraordinary man. Speaking of the sketches, James jokes, “I love Dave (Dave Chappelle). I think he’s brought something to comedy that people haven’t seen before. He’s a beautiful human being, and Charlie Murphy (Charlie Murphy) is a very dear friend. Everywhere I go, white folks, black folks, green folks, I hear “I’m Rick James, bitch!” I don’t really think David did it purposely. I take that back. He probably did.” You can check it all out on Showtime, premiering Friday, September 3.