Baadasssss! Mario Van Peebles

Baadasssss! Mario Van Peebles
Baadasssss! is Mario Van Peebles' journey into the making of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, his father Melvin's 1971 tour de force, which is credited as being the film that launched the blaxploitation genre. Sweetback was an independently-produced smash, grossing more than ten million dollars after starting its run in just two cinemas. As with any "making of" project, it helps to have seen the original: Sweetback was shockingly sex-driven, brutally violent and politically-charged, all filmed in a hallucinatory swirl of images, break beats and sound effects. Baadasssss! both parallels and pays tribute to Sweetback, cleverly exploring and expanding on the themes of the original. The younger Van Peebles plays his dad as a driven, charismatic, tough-loving bully who alternately inspired and irritated those with whom he worked. In doing so, the movie is psychic payback for Mario as he gets to re-examine the father/son dynamic that his younger self (played by Khleo Thomas, from Holes) experienced. Baadasssss! has a more ambitious take on race and power though - Sweetback was powerful for its outrage against white power structures, whereas Baadasssss! shows the real life dynamics between multiple races, hippies and straights, and sexual orientations of all description coming to bear on the production of the movie. It's also an incredible tale of guerrilla filmmaking: how to get around union rules, how to shoot on the fly and how to train a raw crew on the job. With so many issues on the go, Baadasssss! is also a hell of a good time. Much of the fun in this movie is created by its vivid characters, who are painted in broad strokes, some perhaps stereotypical, but never venturing too far from reality, as their real life counterparts make cameos over the closing credits. None of the characters are played exclusively for laughs, and Mario never creates the jiggy comedy that major studios would have loved to see him (and his father) create. Melvin is cruel and abrasive, but his conviction and his inspiration ultimately has us rooting for him. (Mongrel Media)