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Tribeca Review: We Needed “Stockholm Syndrome,” for the Information, If Not the Art

Written by: Adam Vaughn | June 16th, 2021

Title card: “Stockholm Syndrome”

Stockholm Syndrome (The Architects, 2021) 2½ out of 4 stars.

Stockholm Syndrome unpacks the story of rapper A$AP Rocky’s journey through the highly controversial events that took place in Sweden in 2019. While I enjoyed the film, I also thought its overall story structure jumped around in ideas and structure, making the documentary, itself, a little too “rocky.” It starts with its subject’s upbringing as a child in Harlem, with interviews from his family, friends, and other members of the A$AP squad. As the story progresses, we see various perspectives of the socio-political effect Rocky’s lockup had on the world, as well as on those closest to the rapper. Viewpoints spanning from fans and news anchors, all the way to former President Trump and fellow artists in the industry, offer diverse insights into what happened. Most importantly, we get inside audio from the actual court case that went down in Sweden.

While Stockholm Syndrome is able to fully delineate the events from start to finish, too much of the film tackles a similar viewpoint from start to finish, rarely deviating from any angle that sheds fair or positive light on the Swedish government, and chalks up their actions as simply “racist.” Often the film gets distracted, showcasing and highlighting A$AP Rocky’s career and achievements (both old and new) rather than delving deeper into the main issues of the story. As much as Stockholm Syndrome contains engaging content and analysis of the rapper as a person and his emotionally charged perspective behind his incarceration, it does tend to feel like a shameless plug stating, “Here’s my work and here’s what I’ve got coming to you next.”

A$AP Rocky in STOCKHOLM SYNDROME ©The Architects

Needless to say, Stockholm Syndrome is the perfect documentary for viewers looking to dive into A$AP Rocky as an accomplished rapper overcoming adversity overseas. Sequences of stop-motion events of Rocky being in solitary confinement add a striking touch to the film, throughout, and the consistent audio clips of the trial, mixed with photo imagery, bring the court case to life in the best ways. I was also thoroughly inspired by the film’s score, composed of some of A$AP Rocky’s greatest hits. While structurally Stockholm Syndrome contains flaws that underwhelm, the overall film succeeds as a depiction of the rapper’s life and recent struggles, and captivates in a unique and effective way.

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Adam Vaughn is a graduate of the Film & Moving Image program at Stevenson University, with a focus in Cinematography and Production. He also has a minor in Theater and Media Performance. Adam works as a freelance photographer and videographer, focusing his craft on creating compelling photographic and cinematic imagery. Adam is excited to join the Film Festival Today team and explore the world of cinema and visual arts.

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