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 glances at his checkbook just before visiting Bill Cosby to request a $50,000 production loan, the Bank of America logo on the check is the current version introduced in 1998. 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 »
I had been putting off seeing this, and then was pleasantly surprised.
I didn't know much about Mario Van Peebles, nor of his father ("Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song" came out 2 years before I was born) but after seeing this homage to Mr. Van Peebles and seeing how much he risked - everything from finances to his family and his own health, for his dream of "the world" to really see life from the African American point of view, the way it really is, is well impressive to say the least.
The unimaginable struggle, the pressure and the sheer will that Mario portrays in his father is a touching tribute. Mario reveals his father's motives for making "Sweetback" in a moving and heartfelt way, documenting how Hollywood portrayed races other than white - if you are not white, then you are the white man's servant - how at that time - no one and no other film had film portrayed a Black Man as a hero or the struggles that he or any other race faces. It is a tale that is bigger than him and despite the risk and struggle, he fights to tell it. This is a fitting homage to a pioneer of a Genre and a Father.
"Baadasssss!" It also depicts the rugged world of guerrilla film-making and the rabid fight involved in making an indie film from inception to distribution. After seeing this I take a much greater heed of the Van Peebles Name, "Baadasssss!" is worthy film as a Drama in its own right, an Homage to a Pioneer and Father and as a Documenty Tribute to a Piece of Film History.
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