Melvin Van Peebles stunned the world for the first time, with his debut feature, The Story of a Three Day Pass. Filmed in France and selected as the French entry in the San Francisco Film Festival, Melvin's film was awarded the top prize. Saying it was controversial would be an understatement. In 1968 for a black man to walk up to the podium and accept the top festival award for a film he had to go abroad to make--now that's how you make your mark. After his comedy, Watermelon Man, Melvin was determined to push the Hollywood boundaries with the groundbreaking, and even more controversial, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. Turned down by every major studio including Columbia, where he had a three-picture deal, Melvin was forced to basically self-finance. Risking everything he had Melvin delivered to the world the first Black Ghetto hero on the big screen--whether they were ready or not! More than 30 years later, history is being fashioned again in the telling of this very tale. Mario ... Written by
Sujit R. Varma
When Melvin is composing the music with Earth, Wind and Fire, the bassist can be seen playing an Ibanez ATK series bass. Although Ibanez were making musical instruments in the '70s, the ATK series was not available until the mid-1990s. See more »
Melvin Van Peebles:
Is this something negative, Priscilla? Because if it's negative, I can't even deal with it right now. I'm a broke, pissed off nigger from Chicago, and I'm down to my last cigar.
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Real-life participants of the production of "Sweet Sweetback's..." give testimony during the closing credits, including Earth, Wind & Fire founding member Maurice White, who confirmed the "bounced check" story. Melvin Van Peebles himself appears onscreen when the credits finish. See more »
"Baadasssss!" beats out Truffaut's "Day For Night" as the greatest movie ever made about the movie business. What Mario Van Peebles does here is nothing short of extraordinary: he manages to inform the viewer about independent film-making while also incorporating an enthralling portrayal of a man obsessed by his unique version of the American dream.
Like "Adaptation", the film is a dizzying array of comedy, satire, family drama, and a little bit of Freudian psychology. Van Peebles, casting himself as his father, obviously doesn't glorify the production, but tells the story of the making of "Sweetback" in a low-key and understandable manner. He doesn't make his father a hero or a villain but rather a man pushed to his limits. The backstage antics are sometimes funny, but more often are simply incredible to believe. Van Peebles' daring use of "American Splendor"-like documentary transitions are also wonderfully effective.
It must be said that I have not seen "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song" and it's hard to fathom that this film would actually be better upon after viewing it (I'm not suggesting that I won't look for the film next time I'm at the video store). Like its subject, "Baadasssss!" is a revolutionary film, and should not be limited to film buffs or fans of Mario Van Peebles; this is a movie any casual film-goer would thoroughly enjoy.
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