Film airing at Sundance tells story of A Tribe Called Quest

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Film airing at Sundance tells story of A Tribe Called Quest

They were the “Rolling Stones of hip-hop” in the 1990s before breaking up in 1998 - but now the story of A Tribe Called Quest is being told at the Sundance Film festival.

“Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest,” by U.S. actor-turned-filmmaker Michael Rapaport is in competition at the prestigious independent film festival, which closed yesterday.

The band’s five albums all went either gold or platinum, and its four members - all from the Queens borough of New York - are credited with revolutionizing hip-hop.

They notably brought jazz influences into hip-hop, and broached social problems in their lyrics.

“I’ve always been a fan,” said Rapaport, an American actor who notably played Denny in Woody Allen’s crime comedy “Small Time Crooks,” and has been in the television series “Prison Break.”

The idea came to him in 2006 when he saw them perform - despite their split in 1998 after their last album “The Love Movement,” they have reunited for a number of gigs over the last decade.

“I saw them perform, and I had such a great time, the environment was so happy, I was just: “‘I want to make a movie about those guys,’” he said.

After an initial segment, which focuses on the music, the documentary explores the reasons for the separation of band members Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammed and Jarobi White.

Some of the interviews pull no punches.

“I thought the movie was going to be more just a sort of a concert, celebration, an exploration of just the music,” said Rapaport. “I really had no idea that we would go into personal stuff and I really didn’t suspect I was going to have access to it.

“So when I started getting access to it and I realized that it was going to be more than just an overview of the group as musicians, it was exciting and scary at the same time, because it was much more complicated.”

On more than one occasion the filmmaker found himself in the middle of rows in corridors - including one memorable one in San Francisco - which throw a harsh light on the bitterness and frustrations of the childhood friends.

The band members weren’t always totally comfortable with the camera.

“Sometimes they forgot, sometimes they were not happy with it; they were concerned,” Rapaport said. “I don’t think they wanted to be over the top; they were protective.

“But ultimately they gave me the trust that I needed to have the material to tell the story that had to be told.”

The film is set to be released in more theaters this year.

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