Description from TIFF 2012 catalog by Thom Powers:
When Iceberg Slim published Pimp: The Story of My Life in 1969, he launched a potent and unusual literary career, influencing an audience that ranged from artists to street hustlers. The book dazzled with raw language that evoked a life experience different from the worlds of black writers such as James Baldwin or Ralph Ellison. Pimp sold nearly two million copies and was distributed internationally in translation. Slim’s output continued with bestsellers Trick Baby(made into a film), Mama Black Widow (taking on the taboo topic of black homosexuality), and a collection of essays The Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim. Yet when Slim died in 1992, much remained unknown about his life and what aspects of his writing were facts versus fiction.
Director Jorge Hinojosa tells this story with a visual verve that draws upon pulp fiction iconography matched with biographical skills attuned to complexities and contradictions. For twenty-eight years, Hinojosa has been the manager for Ice-T, which has supplied him with insight into the process of creating art out of street life. Years in the making, the film includes archival footage of Slim (whose real name was Robert Beck) along with interviews with his friends, colleagues, and famous admirers such as Chris Rock, Snoop Dogg, Quincy Jones and Ice-T. One of the film’s most significant revelations is an extended interview with Slim’s first wife, Betty Beck, with whom he had children. Betty met Slim after he’d already done stints as a pimp, prisoner and drug addict and was trying to lead a more upstanding life. She played nurse mother to his writing career by getting him to tell stories, which she’d transcribe. The film is poignant in chronicling their symbiotic relationship and the tensions that split it apart.
For the millions of readers who have been enthralled by Slim’s books, this film enriches their understanding. And for newcomers to his world, it’s a great place to start.