Duke Johnson visits a small Southern town, intent on burying his brother. After the funeral, he learns that he must stay for 60 days, for the estate to be processed. A few locals convince ... See full summary »
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.
The work of photographer Diane Arbus as explained by her daughter, friends, critics, and in her own words as recorded in her journals. Illustrated with many of her photographs. Mary Clare ... See full summary »
Mary Clare Costello
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
While making "Sweet Sweetback", Melvin Van Peebles makes a reference to TV's "Soul Train", a show that would not be introduced into nationally syndication for another year. 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.
See more »
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 »
Gettin' the Man's Foot outta Your Baadasssss!
Lyrics by Mario Van Peebles
Performed by Jameel Hassan
Black Panther Records Publishing
Music by Black Panther Records and the Huey P. Newton Foundation See more »
Mario Van Peebles pay a stunning tribute to his father's landmark film,and does him one better in the one of the best indy films I've seen this year
This is now just being shown in select theaters across the country and I got the chance to see this film just the other night,and it is a welcome sigh of relief from the outcome of summer rubbish that is clogging the nearby multiplexes. But with "Baadasssss!",co-writer and director Mario Van Peebles has offered a stunning tribute to his father,Melvin Van Peebles,whose groundbreaking 1971 classic film became one of the highest-grossing independent films of that year,and also opened the floodgates for a string of blaxploitation movies to come throughout the decade of the 1970's. The film is also a case of cinematic one-upsmanship in which Mario Van Peebles,himself,plays his father Melvin,warts and all,during the course of the older man's production of his greatest claim to fame,the cult sensation independent film of 1971,"Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song",which was in fact a film that didn't get much hearsay when it first came out,but by word of mouth became the surprise hit of that year since the 1971 film was "X" rated by an all-white jury for some outlandish content and shocking scenes.
For those individuals who have never seen this blaxploitation classic,or who have managed to see it in its entirely in the video store or in college film courses or during midnight screenings on college campuses(where it is shown during Black History Month)or most recently during Black Film Festivals where panel discussions are formed regarding this landmark cinematic piece of African-American film-making. The picture "Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song",stars Melvin Van Peebles himself as a bordello stud performer in Los Angeles who gets arrested and beaten by racist White cops,kills two of them,and manages to escape(the movie concluded with Van Peebles running endlessly over hill and dale)while he stays on the lam,while the chants throughout blasts out: "You killed my momma!","You killed my poppa!","You killed my brother!", "You killed my sister!"......."But you won't killed me!"............. The picture was very low budget making it grainy and hallucinogenic in the fashion of that era and it featured a throbbing,Greek chorus style accompaniment from an unknown band at the time...Earth,Wind,and Fire who would go on to become one of the most successful funk/R&B bands of the 1970's. "Sweetback" is credited with being the first film to have a black man taking charge of his own production and his own financing of the film and his own representations through his own independent film company,which was a bold and prosperous move at the time. "Sweetback" introduce to the world black street language and attitudes plus it wa also a winner to celebrate a lawless hero who stood up to the wrongful doings of the Man and came up a bonafide winner.
In "Baadassss!",Mario Van Peebles re-creates from start to finish the making of "Sweetback" and the convulsive life around the production. Now in his mid-forties,he plays his father at roughly the same age,and following his father,he wrote the screenplay for the movie(with Dennis Haggerty),co-produced,and directed it. He has not just stepped into his father's shoes,but captured every stanza and every body movement and it works very well here. The story of this famous tale of Melvin Van Peebles goes this way:in 1970,after directing the controversial successful comedical satire "Watermelon Man",starring Godfrey Cambridge,Van Peebles(who had a three-picture deal with Columbia Pictures at the time)turning his back on the glad-handing executives at Columbia,and the way Hollywood portrayed blacks on film,was thinking of explaining his vision to his agents whom turned him down so instead to make this film he had to be manipulative and devious enough to pull off the impossible,and he did. As far as the story goes,he did a lot of hustling to get this film made whatever the odds were against him which was a phenomenal amount of accomplishments he had to face to get this off the ground and running. Melvin passes the film off as a black "porn-movie" and shoots a scene to further that impression,but he had to enlists the help of a lot of people including a white stoner,a black porn producer,a reclusive gangbanger,and other social undesirables which includes a Bob Evans-style producer that turns out to be a gay-shooter too(and that is played by Adam West....yes,that Adam West. That's right boys and girls....Batman himself)not to mention using his own kids for this project as well. The movie captures some of the desperation and the easy pleasures of the period which turns out to be an exhausting,pleasurable,great piece of entertainment for a great summer escapism. However,"Baadassss!" is a celebration of sorts,which in turn reminds us that the political fervor that animated the films of Melvin Van Peebles and his contemporaries has largely disappeared from the American scene which there are notable exceptions such as Micheal Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11",and Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing". In an era where black entertainers are producing too many borderline minstrel entertainment like "Barbershop","White Chicks","Soul Plane",Mario Van Peebles' "Baadassss!" is a welcome call to arms,and its a grand honor to represent one of the great pioneers of Black Cimema. But it is also a mystery to this day for the son of Melvin Van Peebles,Mario whose greatest achievement as a film director,the 1991 crime-drama,"New Jack City",and the 1992 all-black western "Posse",and as an B-listed actor doesn't get the ultimate respect he greatly deserves. Let's hope he gets some respect here with this stunning tribute.
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