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TOP 100 MOVIES in 2003!
Mario Van Peebles's half documentary/half homage to his father Melvin's 1971 film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song.
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There are those films where the drama that was going on behind the scenes during production is so colourful and entertaining, that it’s a story for a film unto itself. Some such stories were made into films, which include White Hunter, Black Heart, Clint Eastwood’s portrait of the making of The African Queen and Hearts of Darkness, a fascinating documentary on the tumultuous production of Apocalypse Now. Mario Van Peebles’ Baadasssss! is a wonderful addition to this genre. The film chronicles his father Melvin’s trials and tribulations as he wrote, produced, directed, edited, financed and starred in the film that broke new ground in how African-Americans were portrayed in film and sparked off the Blaxploitation genre of the 70s, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971).
Now, while SSBS was revolutionary for what it accomplished, it’s not a very good film. The story of "a street brother who turns revolutionary" after murdering two policemen to save the life of a young African-American radical, like Easy Rider, falls into the category of the overrated classic that was good and revolutionary at the time it was released, but in reality is a terrible movie that has not stood the test of time. While Sweetback does contain some really slick camera work and use of montage, and a really funky music score by Earth, Wind & Fire, it is absolutely excruciating and interminable to watch. Horrible acting, poor sound and Melvin Van Peebles’ ego and overwhelming desire to shock and offend makes the atrocious cult film Rainbow Bridge, featuring Jimi Hendrix, look appealing by comparison.
The DVD contains a wealth of extras including a very entertaining commentary track by Melvin and Mario Van Peebles, The Birth of Black Cinema a documentary on the phenomenon that SSBS created when it was released and the making of Baadasssss!, a featurette on the premiere and American Cinematheque Q&A with Melvin Van Peebles.