by Ismael Bustelo
Jeen-Yuhs is a three part documentary series following artist Kanye West in the very early stages of his career. The first episode debuted in movie theaters and has been followed by a release on streaming services. Acts one through three have already been released on Netflix. The first episode does an amazing job of getting the audience engaged with Kanye’s journey and sympathetic in a new way for a man whose decades-long career has been subject to both the harshest criticism and highest praise.
The series starts off in a way that isn’t very common for most documentaries; the filmmaker introduces himself and makes his place in this journey known. In a series about the most famous person in modern day for music, fashion, and his character, it is easy to be sidetracked by the need to exclusively showcase the subject matter. In this series, that is not the case. Director and one person cameraman, Coodie, makes his art unique to him. He articulates his journey with the film and what it meant to him as he progressed through many milestones of his life related to Kanye’s career. Yet the film still very much feels like Kanye’s story and journey. It’s incredibly captivating to see a celebrity whose life has always been out on public display depicted in a different light. A light that shows his nature without anything extra sidetracking the audience, simply the events themselves and how they unfolded.
The footage captures Kanye while he navigates his journey to make money producing for other artists while also trying to obtain a record deal for himself. The film is full of moments where the audience sees multiple record company executives passing on songs that are now revered as classics. It contains a melancholy tone as Kanye and Coodie struggle to accomplish their dreams but continue to remain hopeful as their journey progresses. There’s something very captivating about seeing someone so famous and powerful captured on film at a time when they were vulnerable.
The episode doesn’t rely on nostalgia and could genuinely stand on its own to an audience member who may not know Kanye West’s work. The footage is a raw product of its time and accomplishes in making the audience feel like a fly on the wall to the music industry's fast moving business model. The series is ultimately about various people pursuing their dreams as one person stands out above the rest. This episode is a self reflective experience regarding our own aspirations and the drive to follow through. The first episode of the Jeen-Yuhs trilogy succeeds in getting the audience fascinated in the series and excited to see the rest unfold. Give it a watch.