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.
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 »
Up & Down
Performed by Niki J. Crawford
New Dog Old Trix Publishing, Country Girl Entertainment
Written by (c) Adam Hirsh, Niki J. Crawford
Courtesy of Treehouse Music Inc., Country Girl Entertainment See more »
Aw, damn. We can't make fun of Mario Van Peebles anymore. Always something of a laughing stock (despite a few good contributions, like a good performance in "Ali" and directing "New Jack City"), Mario Van Peebles has made himself instantly much cooler by making this fun and suitably chaotic film, which chronicles the making of his father Melvin's landmark film "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song".
I've never seen that film, but from what I understand it's not exactly great, but was revolutionary for existing at all. It's about a black man "taking it to the man" and actually getting away with it, which was unheard of at the time.
Mario plays his own father, and "Baadasssss!" certainly doesn't candy-coat it. Melvin was essentially a good man, but could be incredibly cold and mean, and to his own family, and the film shows that. It also takes us back to the notorious scene in "Sweetback" where Melvin used his own 13 year-old son in the scene where the the titular character loses his virginity. This scene was difficult and uncomfortable for everyone involved, EXCEPT Melvin, which is telling.
The movie is swiftly paced and stylish, but I couldn't help feeling that it could be a little better. It feels a little messy and disorganized at times. Still, good stuff.
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