Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



The story of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, the 1971 Melvin Van Peebles film that was the first real “black” movie. I saw it when it was new, in San Francisco, and I’d like to see it again. I remember that it was hard to watch, as a white person, that it opened my eyes a little to how black people experienced the world. I suspect it wouldn’t look so good today; the bits you can see in the new movie are very raw, no surprise considering the perilous and primitive conditions under which it was filmed. Van Peebles was on the edge of disaster all the way through. The film almost didn’t get made, almost didn’t get distributed, almost didn’t get seen. But the rest was history. It made tons of money, and created a whole new genre which is still thriving today. Baadasssss! is a wonderful look into that moment in time, and a highly personal film, with Mario Van Peebles playing his own father, who was so obsessed with getting his movie made that he became something of a monster for a while. But that’s often the way with artists with a vision, and Mario understands that while never flinching away from the ugliness.