Sunday, 24 January 2010


Sweet Sweetback is a performer in a popular Los Angeles sex show who is implicated in the murder of a local black man. When brought to the station, it becomes clear that the police are arresting him to assuage the black community, but a scuffle involving a feisty Black Panther named Mu-Mu has Sweetback on the run. During his travels, he encounters a gang of Hells Angels, the female leader of whom he has sex with to gain the group’s acceptance. Sweetback and Mu-Mu manage to hide out briefly amongst the bikers, but before long they are hounded by police again. In his hour of need, Sweetback manages to change into some less conspicuous clothing to aid his escape to Mexico, but time is seemingly running out as the police drop everything to see him put to justice.

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song is a most unusual work, a film caught halfway between knowing parody and dogged recalcitrance. The film is particularly exciting for its outré editing, and while it isn’t consistently successful – in fact, it’s often downright mystifying – it is definitely refreshing to see, and is even vaguely reminiscent of Kenneth Anger on occasion. All the hallmarks of low-budget independent cinema are sadly evident, but kudos must go to Melvin Van Peebles, who not only took the role of Sweetback, but also directed, wrote, produced, edited, funded and scored the film. If nothing else, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song should serve as inspiration for impoverished independent filmmakers with something to say.

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