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In a special two-part episode, John Heilemann talks with visionary film and television director Allen Hughes about Dear Mama — the sprawling, spellbinding documentary series about the lives and times of hip hop icon Tupac Shakur and his mother, Afeni, a prominent member of the Black Panther Party in the Sixties and Seventies — that Hughes has been working on for much of the past three years. The first episode of Dear Mama premieres on September 15 at the Toronto International Film Festival, with the entire five-part series airing on F/X later this year; Hughes's conversation with Heilemann is the first time he has spoken in detail about the project. They discuss the director's tumultuous relationship with Tupac in both of their early years in show business, which led to Hughes being brutally beaten by gang associates of the young rapper; how the relationship between Tupac and his mother shaped his outlook, politics, and attitude toward violence; the hot-eyed feud between hip hop's East Coast and West Coast factions in the Nineties; and the still much-debated circumstances surrounding Tupac's murder in Las Vegas in 1996. In second part of the episode, Hughes and Heilemann explore the director's groundbreaking career, from Menace II Society, Dead Presidents, and The Book of Eli to the game-changing HBO doc series, The Defiant Ones, about music-industry titans Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine, as well as Hughes's tantalizing next undertaking: a biopic of Motown legend Marvin Gaye, entitled What's Going On.
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