The New Orleans bounce music queen Big Freedia is armed with empathy. She doesn’t just talk lucidly about how her life has been irrevocably shaped by gun violence in the documentary “Freedia Got a Gun,” she does something about it.
The film (streaming on Peacock) wisely avoids biographical documentary tropes, instead functioning more like a call to arms to address the gun violence epidemic in New Orleans. Freedia is forthright and unsentimental about her experiences. Her brother, Adam, was killed in 2018. She discusses how the territorial nature of the low income housing areas of the city would go on to inform her music.
Freedia is self-aware enough to know, however, how she can use her platform, often stepping back to center those who have been affected. While visiting correctional facilities and the families of victims, she gives space to those affected, allowing them to speak. Her hope is to work with one kid at a time to ensure he avoids not only being part of the prison system but also the traumas of violence facing Black men in New Orleans. If the film sometimes drifts into after-school-special aesthetics, that can be forgiven for the striking empathy it has for its community members.
When “Freedia Got a Gun” risks being unrelenting in its pain, the director Chris McKim leaves room for levity. At one moment, the film documents the recovery of a young man paralyzed from being hit by a stray bullet. His mother recounts telling her son he could get an iPhone if he worked on speech during his rehabilitation. She makes a wily smile, deadpanning, “Sam started talking.”
Freedia’s beguiling charisma carries the film, and it makes the case that her impressive power, in conjunction with collective action, could help carry a movement, too.
Freedia Got A Gun
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 28 minutes. Watch on Peacock.