The inspirational documentary short Gift of Gab reaches audiences beyond the film festival circuit with its digital premiere on Monday, June 13. The documentary premieres exclusively on Pitchfork and Pitchfork’s channel on The Scene, the video platform from Condé Nast Entertainment. Directed by Michael Jacobs of Strike Anywhere, Gift of Gab is a portrait of a creative resurgence spurned by a life-threatening diagnosis. Gift of Gab first premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival where it was one out of nine short documentaries nominated for a jury prize.
In 2012, iconic Blackalicious front man Timothy “Gift of Gab” Parker (aka Gab) discovered that complications from Type 1 Diabetes had caused his kidneys to shut down, leaving him with no choice but to undergo the life-altering and exhausting process of dialysis treatment every other day.
Gift of Gab shines a spotlight on Gab’s resilience and his willingness to face the condition head-on while staying positive and focused on his craft. In fact, Gab’s brush with mortality spurs him to new bouts of creation, using his time spent alone in dialysis to write what would become Imani Vol 1, Blackalicious’ first album in over a decade.
The intersection of art and life is viscerally portrayed and faithfully rendered, with director Michael Jacobs deftly illustrating the way in which adversity engenders triumph. “I was immediately drawn to Gab’s story,” Jacobs says. “This guy is one of fastest, most dexterous and dynamic MCs of all time and yet every other day he’s sitting in a treatment center getting all his blood pulled out, cleaned, and then put back into his body.”
“Gab is dealing with this constant life and death condition, yet he decides to use his time in treatment to write music. So much so in fact that 75% of Imani Vol 1 was written while in dialysis. When I heard this remarkable story, I immediately knew that I wanted to make a film that offered a window into that experience.”
Gab and Blackalicious are currently touring the world in support of the new album. The tour is specifically designed around access to dialysis centers, enabling the guys to perform steadily year-round, with shows from Japan to Europe and across the US.
The Pitchfork release is timed to coincide with Men’s Health Week, heralding a call to action with the hope of finding people who are willing to donate a kidney to help Gab and others like him. Studies indicate that recipients of kidney transplants have a higher life expectancy rate (on average of 10-20 years) and improved quality of life compared to those who undergo chronic dialysis treatment.
The public release of Gift of Gab is as timely and urgent as ever, following the recent loss of beloved New York rapper Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, who passed away in March due to a kidney-related condition. The National Kidney Foundation has also taken notice, and is using the film to help Gab possibly find a donor, and to get the word out about kidney disease and its prevalence in the African American community. Studies show that due to high rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, the African American community has an increased risk of developing kidney failure and suffer from kidney failure at a significantly higher rate – more than three times higher.
On his hope for the film’s release, Jacobs says:
“We can all learn from Gab’s positive perspective, his comfort with vulnerability, and his desire to make art out of difficult circumstances. And in a best case scenario, the film can serve to find Gab a kidney donor while also encouraging more people to consider becoming registered organ donors.”