Interview w/ Andy Capper, Director of the New Snoop Dogg Documentary, REINCARNATED

If Andy Capper is anything, he’s the poster boy of tried-and-true immersion journalism and filmmaking. As the global editor of VICE Magazine, (he founded the UK/Europe sector of VICE Magazine with Andrew Creighton) Capper has created an extensive catalog of film and articles documenting him, his colleagues, and his crew diving eyeball-deep in the experiential complexities of war, sex, and drug addiction within the odd, dark, and bleakest corners of the world.

Or, it is more appropriate to say, he is documenting himself document the most exotic forms of poverty, war, terror, and sex on this planet. His films are enthralling, uncensored, and relatively shocking to anyone who doesn’t keep up with the current political affairs of third world countries.

For Capper’s latest film, REINCARNATED, he flips his personal immersion techniques onto one of the most successful recording artists in post-modern pop culture history: Snoop Dogg, or Snoop Lion, as he is now calling himself.

Snoop agreed to team up with VICE Films to document his month long spiritual pilgrimage to Jamaica. Andy directed the film and created an itinerary of historical and essential landmarks for Snoop and his favorite little cousin (who accompanied Snoop on the trip) to explore. Not only did VICE catch Snoop curiously adapting to new environments and customs, (of course excessive weed smoking was one part of Rastafarian culture Snoop was already very familiar with) but the film also softly drills deeply into Snoop’s tumultuous and emotional history as a hip hop recording artist, and the triais and gifts of being a father, a loyal friend and husband.

The film reflects Snoop’s personal perspective on the state of the violent hip hop culture that he helped create and perpetuate, while at the same time showing him evolving into a contemplative, spiritual man and reggae artist. He committed himself to put aside his gansta rap persona, and openly stepped into “the light” by creating music alongside Bunny Wailer, and the industry’s best reggae and pop songwriters to record the album REINCARNATED, the musical counterpart of his film.

I asked Andy Capper some questions about his experience making REINCARNATED, which was premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September of 2012 and will also be celebrating the American premier of the film this week at SXSW 2013 in Austin, Texas. 

*REINCARNATED will premier in theaters on March 15th in New York, LA, San Francisco, Austin, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago.

“…it could have been just a “making of the album”, but we wanted to make something deeper than that.” – Andy Capper

Who was the catalyst in regards to Vice Films and Snoop coming together to produce REINCARNATED?

Snoop’s camp approached us because they’d seen movies we’d done before like VICE’s Guide to Liberia, and they told us that Snoop was a big fan of us, and we were like, “What? Really?!”.  We said we were a big fan of him too and asked if they wanted to work together, and they said, “Yeah, sure. What do you want to do?” …So I took a chance with the access I had to Snoop to get an understanding of his life story.

How did the concept of the film come to light?

It was a collaborative process. I came up with all these ideas about what I wanted him to do to make the film I wanted to make, and surprisingly, he was up for most of it, like him talking about his history and the family shit, and Nate Dogg’s funeral. He was just like, “Yo, whenever there’s music playing in my room, just come in my room,” which meant, we were able to go into his room and interview him and capture him as naturally as we wanted. That was really cool, because we wanted to get a picture of him, what he was really like beyond the persona and stuff. It was completely unscripted and you see a lot of reality.

Were you surprised by everything that happened when you got to Jamaica?

Umm, not really, because I planned it all (laughs). You know, we planned all these things to happen, we took him here, and we took him there, and he seemed generally moved by the things we showed him and took him to see. I was surprised at how much the trip affected him.

As a director, particularly with this film, was your job to make an itinerary and set up these experiences and scenarios in Jamaica to see how Snoop would adapt and function in them?

Yeah, well he’d been to Jamaica a few times, but he stayed in his hotel room and back stage, and on stage, so he hadn’t really seen where reggae really came from. We took him to Trench Town, and places of great conflict, and we also took him to places of great peace. We tried to take him to as many places as we could.

I noticed that Snoop was talking to someone as he was telling his life story in the film. Was he talking to you? Is that you prompting his story and some of the more emotional moments in the film?

Yes. That took place in his “man cave” in L.A.. We did two master interviews; one in Los Angeles, and one in Jamaica.

The whole spiritual aspect of the film; when did the light bulb come on in Snoop’s head that he wanted to become Snoop Lion?

I don’t look at it like it was a light bulb that went on in his head. I feel like it was always inside of him, and it got bigger and bigger as he got older. He looked back on his life, and all the mistakes he had made, the experiences he had, and the influence he had on people. As anyone gets older, they start to reflect and question “What am I actually doing here?” I feel like that trip was something that had been coming on for a long time, and really awakened something within him. It was probably in him since he was born, and it just kept growing and growing and growing.

How was it for you to be in Jamaica and around the Rastafarians? Were they kind to you?

Everyone was really nice. I just found out recently, I was the first person to ever go into that temple (Snoop participates in a Rastafarian spiritual service at one point in the film). It was just me and one of my DPs, and it was like “Oh shit, we’re really here, you know?” Everyone was really nice to us, really beautiful people.

…and this is why they (Snoop and his management) got me to do this film, because we had been to places that were way more intense. Trench Town was kind of easy. We’d been to Syberia and Liberia, these super intense places, and that’s our job. We seem most at home when we’re at the opposite of home.

You seem to be generally interested in people’s struggles and pain when it comes to drug addiction, poverty, and violence. Why do you try to highlight those types of  realities in different parts of the world?

I’ve always been attracted to those sorts of themes, even as a kid. My mother used to work in a children’s home, and my friends kind of grew up in situations like that. When I started making films, I just understood that there was so much more to people’s stories.

Do you believe that Snoop was chosen by God to bring peace to the rap industry?

Umm, I would have to say yeah, but who is God, really? But I would like to think that, yeah. I would like to think that.

In the film, Snoop participates in a few religions. He talks about being baptized when he was a child, and being connected with the Islam Nation, and his fascination with Rastafarianism. How to you interpret his diverse spiritual background?

I’m down with all of that! I’m down with all of it, as long as he doesn’t become a scientologist (laughs). I mean, I try to be tolerant of other people’s beliefs and religions, generally.

Are you guys going to submit this film to festivals?

We premiered it at the Toronto Film Festival in September. We’re having the American premier at SXSW this week, and we’ll be showing the film in seven other cites across America, as well as showing the film in seven cities across the UK.

Do all of your films get premiered like this, or is this premier on more of a massive level?

This is the biggest film I’ve done so far.

If I can speak personally on Capper and Snoop Lion’s collaboration, I would say that the film is refreshingly, if not surprisingly, poignant, gentle, endearing, and powerfully informative. Snoop and his cousin are completely fascinating to watch, and are adorable as they embrace every moment of their trip throughout Jamaica.

This film is also a very important case study in regards to Hip Hop history. A lot of questions are answered, and the mystery of Tupac and Biggie’s deaths are on many levels logically explained and sovled by Snoop opening up about him being bedside with Pac and speaking to Suge Knight right after the shooting occurred  I highly recommend this film. You’ll laugh and cry with Snoop, and will inherit a greater respect and adoration for this veteran hip hop artist.

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