Film version of Melvin Van Peebles' Broadway musical. A pair of devil-bats take human form and crash a Harlem house party in an attempt to break it up. But somehow, their attempts to ruin the party fail.
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Melvin Van Peebles
Meiji U Tum'si
Melvin Van Peebles wrote, directed, produced, edited, composed and starred in this powerful and inflammatory attack on White America. After the body of a black man is discovered, Sweetback helps two white 'acquaintances' in the police force to look good by agreeing to go with them to the station as a suspect. But he is forced to go on the run after brutally attacking the two policemen when they arrest and beat up a young black man. Written by
David Claydon <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As long as you don't study it for its technique...
This is a film that has several things going for it, none of them technical. The idea of shooting a movie with a largely black cast on dark streets at night without any sort of extra lighting is... well, a bad one, and coupled with its mic-in-the-cameraman's-back- pocket sound mix, an awful lot of the first half of the movie is just shy of being incomprehensible. Add in an editing job that suggests somebody was busy talking on the phone during the cutting of several key scenes, and you could have a real patience- tester of a film on your hands.
Thankfully, the mood of the film is positive enough that its deliriously illogical plot actually works in its favour. Greasy kid Mario van Peebles (minus the "van" here) is transformed into strapping man Melvin van Peebles in a meaningful encounter with a hooker, and you can buy it. On-the-lam hero Sweetback is challenged to a duel by bikers, and nobody so much as blinks when he suggests that it should be a duel of sexual prowess... hell, they don't even seem to care that he doesn't need to move in order to drive his women wild. He's even brought back from the dead by the chorused voices of The Black Community, and it all sort of makes sense, kind of.
In fact, it isn't until the very last shot of the movie, when you realize that 90 minutes and change have built up to... well, nothing much, really, except maybe a shred of belief in the power of an act of will, and perhaps the promise of a sequel, that you feel like taking the movie to task for its gaping technical flaws again. Even then, it's made so earnestly that I don't really have the heart to slag it for its ineptly-blocked camerawork and dreadful acting. I've seen much worse from filmmakers who weren't trying to change the world by giving a damn, so instead I'll talk it up by calling it the spiritual ancestor of the basketball-teleportation ending to He Got Game, and pretty much everything in The Matrix, too. That it was largely the work of one hugely inspired guy makes it all the cooler, so struggling filmmakers, take note! As long as you crib your technique from other places, Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song should be an inspiration to you.
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