Baadasssss!

Just finished watching another  of the 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen by Leonard Maltin . . . Baadasssss!  I wasn’t sure I would actually be interested in the movie.  It tells a unique story that I was so sure I could mesh with.  But then I saw the list of actors . . .

MARIO VAN PEEBLES

JOY BRYANT
TERRY CREWS
OSSIE DAVIS
DAVID ALAN GRIER
NIA LONG
RAINN WILSON
T. K. CARTER
SAUL RUBINEK
PAUL RODRIGUEZ
VINCENT SCHIAVELLI
KHLEO THOMAS
LEN LESSER
SALLY STRUTHERS
ADAM WEST
GLENN PLUMMER
JOHN SINGLETON
TROY GARITY

. . . and decided to give it a shot.  The movie is gripping.  The language is often a bit hard to take, i.e. they say a lot of words I don’t want to hear, but I get that Mario Van Peebles is going for gritty realism and so the language is necessary.

I was going to watch the movie on Hal’s computer while I cleaned my desk.  A few minutes into the movie all thoughts of cleaning were gone.  My eyes were glued to the screen.  I didn’t even pick up some knitting!

This movie is more of a documentary and shows the difficulties of the independent film movement, especially for non-white filmmakers, in the 1970s.  Melvin Van Peebles had made a studio film but was determined to create something of relevance to the black community of his time.  This docu/movie shows what Melvin went through to create his landmark 1971 movie Sweet Sweetback‘s Baadassss Song.  

Melvin is not portrayed as a perfect hero.  He most definitely was not a hero.  But he created a movie of huge importance and relevance.  And Melvin did whatever he had to and used whoever he must to create his movie/vision.  Often Melvin was his own worst enemy, alienating the people who were helping him and often putting them at risk.  He even cast his young son Mario in the movie to enact scenes that even some of his strongest supporters thought were wrong.

The cast is amazing and includes the legendary Ossie Davis as Melvin’s father and director John Singleton (who made his mark a generation after Melvin with Boyz N the Hood) has a cameo role as a disc jockey.

This movie is not for the faint of heart but if you do turn it on be prepared to remain riveted to the screen from the first title to the final credits.

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