Tribeca 2021 Film Festival Review: Stockholm Syndrome

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde

60/100

Stockholm Syndrome directed by The Architects is a documentary that tells the story of multi-hyphenate artist A$AP Rocky from infancy to world wide superstardom to his arrest in Sweden. Described by his friends and family as unorthodox, visionary, and ahead of his time Rocky is an artist in full control of his craft.  As an artist Rocky is never content until he can execute his vision at the most extreme level.  This apparent quest for perfection never comes off as cocky and instead it is just part of who he is. 

Born and bred in Harlem, Rocky started rapping at 8 years old–at influence of his older brother. This story culminates in Rocky’s 2019 arrest in Stockholm where Rocky and two of his friends were arrested for an alleged assault. While in confinement Rocky was alone with his thoughts, it gave him a lot of time to reflect on his life, especially his relationship with his father and the sacrifices his dad made that shaped Rocky into the man he is today. 

When recalling his treatment in jail Rocky said he felt that Swedish authorities wanted to make an example out of him. The most fascinating aspect of this documentary was understanding the differences between the American and Swedish legal system which has no bail system.  As Rocky remained in jail and his trial approached his arrest could have caused an even bigger diplomatic incident, between the countries, when former President Trump became involved and vouched for Rocky’s release. This was met with considerable push back from the Swedish government and former Swedish prime ministers that praised the independence of the Swedish judicial system. 

Rocky’s plight was also met with some criticism in the US by activists that were upset about arguments he made about the Black Lives Matter movement and Ferguson, MI in the past. When questioned about this, for the documentary, Rocky mentioned he still had a lot of learning to do and that his time in the Swedish prison made him “confront” his own blackness. The main takeaway from this doc, however, is this examination of criminal justice systems outside of the United States. Just as important, it highlighted how broken criminal justice is everywhere in the world and how problematic this idea of “guilty until proven innocent” is. 

It is almost as if Rocky’s story was a vessel to bring attention into systems of incarceration and racism in the United States and Sweden. Rocky and his friends were released on a suspended sentence. While this documentary did start to feel a little bit long towards the latter half, the creativity the directors interwove, particularly in the animation segments, helped drive Rocky’s story home. I’d say this is a must watch for Rocky’s fans and I’d highly recommend this to anyone else that is interested in learning more about the intersection of race, politics, diplomacy, fame, and the law in the US and abroad. 

Stockholm Syndrome Clip

Stockholm Syndrome screened as part of the Tribeca 2021 Film Festival thru Tribeca at Home(available only in the USA). Further Distribution TBD.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

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