by Bailey Pennick
“Remember that this is a faith-based movie,” say Clarence “Coodie” Simmons and Chike Ozah, the directing duo behind one of the most anticipated projects in the Festival this year. They’re introducing the first installment of a three-part documentary series about Ye (fka Kanye West), but they don’t see it like any other doc: “The set design and the actors — yes, they’re real people — but [this is] something special and we’re excited.”
jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy is twenty years and 320 hours of footage in the making. When presented with these mind-boggling facts, Sundance Film Festival programmer Adam Montgomery doubles down on Coodie & Chike’s spiritual take on their film. “It’s about keeping the faith to do a project over this many years,” he says to the duo after the premiere of the first episode of the Netflix series.
No one kept the faith about the power and potential of Kanye West — outside of the West family — more than Coodie. And this tangling of Coodie and Kanye’s careers and their relentless hustle is what makes this first section of jeen-yuhs so inspiring and unbelievable. To see a concrete example of unwavering faith in oneself, cue up the moment where a young Ye barges into Roc-A-Fella records and raps to marketing managers and assistants to try to get a record deal as a rapper. “Kanye moved in faith,” says Coodie. “And I believed in Kanye.”
Believing in someone’s potential even when no one else does (see above Roc-A-Fella scene for a visual example of this) is the ultimate act of faith and patience. In finally prepping jeen-yuhs after a couple of decades, Coodie pulled a lot of inspiration from a fellow Sundance film: “When I watched Hoop Dreams and I saw the patience that these guys had to follow these guys around from high school to see if they were going to make it in the NBA. I thought about it with Kanye; I really wanted to show his hero story.”
In the end, though, Coodie believes that everything — including the timing of this project — happens as part of divine intervention. “I’m just happy that God kept putting us together,” Coodie says with a sigh. “I got carjacked and that actually was the reason I could move to New York with Kanye, so now I’m looking at the carjacker as an angel!” He laughs, but he knows it to be true — you just have to keep the faith.