Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song
Houston Cinema Arts Society partners with Museum of Fine Arts Houston and Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC) to present the return of Melvin Van Peebles's classic Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song after the restoration premiered at the 2021 Houston Cinema Arts Festival.
Filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles (1932–2021) walked away from a studio contract to make movies on his own terms, including this audacious action film that became a milestone in American independent cinema. As producer, director, writer, composer, editor, and star of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, Van Peebles created a prototype that Hollywood turned into the blaxploitation franchise. The story follows Sweetback on the run after he’s framed for murder, and the memorable musical score features Earth, Wind & Fire.
A landmark of Black and American independent cinema that would send shock waves through the culture, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song was Melvin Van Peebles’s second feature film, after he walked away from a contract with Columbia in order to make his next film on his own terms. Acting as producer, director, writer, composer, editor, and star, Van Peebles created the prototype for what Hollywood would eventually co-opt and make into the blaxploitation hero: a taciturn, perpetually blank-faced performer in a sex show, who, when he’s pushed too far by a pair of racist cops looking to frame him for a crime he didn’t commit, goes on the run through a lawless underground of bikers, revolutionaries, sex workers, and hippies in a kill-or-be-killed quest for liberation from white oppression. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song’s incendiary politics are matched by Van Peebles’s revolutionary style, in which jagged jump cuts, kaleidoscopic superimpositions, and psychedelic sound design come together in a sustained howl of rage and defiance.
|Country, Year||United States, 1971|
|Director||Melvin Van Peebles|
|Writer||Melvin Van Peebles|
|Cast||Melvin Van Peebles, Hubert Scales, John Dullaghan, Simon Chuckster, Mario Van Peebles|
|Producer||Jerry Gross, Melvin Van Peebles|
|Runtime||97 MINS, SECS|