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The tagline for the movie Cypher is “Fame is whack.” It is by Chris Moukarbel, the writer-director about Tierra Whack Grammy-nominated rapper. For example, upon completion of watching the new Hulu film in its entirety you will see that it’s whack in a number of ways.

The song ‘Stan’ became a classic throwback hit for Eminem and gave us the word ‘stan,’ which refers to die-hard followers of particular musicians these days. Cypher tells different tales from a number of Stans who are part of Tierra Whack’s life while she still navigates her way through fame, success and other things involved in music industry. So while there’s fictional elements to much of this narrative here, you cannot miss out on this hybrid-meta documentary. Just be careful.

Chris Moukarbel, Cypher’ s writer-director couldn’t have been more perfect after his Netflix hit Gaga: Five Foot Two. This journey begins with an epic freestyle-rap video made in 2011 on Philadelphia streets as described by him and it charts the rise to stardom for Tierra Whack to date. Critically acclaimed music video “Mumbo Jumbo” became Grammy-nominated, while her debut album is set to drop next year. However, now we have Cypher and -a hybrid documentary-fiction film”. It sounds like an apt description for this story because not all that is seen in movies like these is really true. And that’s because it speaks volumes about society with crazy music lovers.

So what exactly does ‘cypher’ mean? As shown by Whack’s latest movie that comes with title cards having unique typeset design emphasizing its freshness – which are used instead of voice-over or dialogue – sometimes spelled “cipher,” the word has multiple meanings including “a message written in a secret code.” A woman named Marigold enters into Cypher once a fast-paced first part of the movie has introduced or reintroduced Tierra Whack and her sudden rise to fame, becoming well-known at a restaurant where Whack and her group have gone to take their food.

Marigold’s words are not simply those of someone interrupting others like this, “Hey, sorry to interrupt, but just wanted to say I love your work.” Is Marigold crazy or correct in drawing parallels between ancient deities and Whack’s career trajectory? In case you think this all sounds too stupid, go ahead and watch Cypher yourself so that you can see what some of these theories are. This is absolute one-off storytelling that will be lapped up by cinephiles with relish. The “Are you serious?” reactions from Whack here are priceless.

This is what makes Cypher more than just a documentary type biography about a rising star. The subgenre of found footage in film is still very much alive particularly after the launch of the critically acclaimed LOLA earlier this year. These scenes occur between Whack’s encounters with Marigold and other people, with additional title cards that appear to fill time gaps in the movie which add on to spookiness – even though we are left to read them into an eerie silence. The creepiness factor is enhanced by Moukarbel as he varies perspectives; at times, it stops being ‘his’ footage that we are watching and turns into one of Stan’s who stalks Whack, while she innocently walks along with her pals.

Moukarbel manages to keep up some level of creative skills such as suspenseful music during tense scenes where Whack is out in public and can be regarded as an ordinary man’s danger or an extraordinary fan’s anxiety or jump cuts when it comes to changes in perspective throughout Cypher. But Cypher remains fun and entertaining all the way through, with Whack’s famous music videos interspersed within the narrative from time to time. Luckily, I watched this movie at the premiere in Los Angeles where there was loud singing along with Whack’s songs by noisy viewers who were terrified only when Stans were present too often. At times an audience would gasp or laugh or cringe together.

One way these documentaries like those by Errol Morris and Nick Broomfield become successful is through allowing the actual filmmaker to play a role in their production – literally speaking. In Cypher, which has some degree of fictionality involved elsewhere, we hear off-camera Moukarbel talking to Whack hence grounding her story even further. Such moments bring humor at regular intervals notwithstanding a rather scary and thoughtful film. In general terms, Cypher turns out to be totally exceptional mixing documentary, biopic, thriller and dark comedy to cater for all types of viewers.

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