Posted by: Necci – Apr 16, 2012
This is going to be epic. As one of the final events comprising this year's James River Film Festival, which began on April 12, the James River Film Society will be presenting a theatrical showing of Melvin Van Peebles's legendary African-American action film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. Peebles' picaresque tale of a young black man, wronged by the cops, who takes his vengeance against white authority and becomes a folk hero in the process, was something unheard of at the time, and when no studio would finance it, Peebles made the entire film himself on a shoestring budget. Upon its release, it generated tons of publicity, winning rave reviews from both Roger Ebert and Huey Newton of the Black Panther Party, and becoming a hugely profitable hit that kickstarted an entire genre of film--what is now known as blaxploitation. Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song brought high-speed montages and jump-cuts to Hollywood, and its jazzy funk soundtrack, performed by Earth, Wind & Fire, was equally groundbreaking, both musically and in its juxtaposition with film.
But all this analytical geekery is not the main reason you should come out to this showing of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. Indeed, even if none of its unprecedented facets were present in the film, the fact remains that it's an awesome way to spend 90 minutes. The trailer above will give you an idea of what kind of a ride you're in for, but it barely scratches the surface. This is the kind of wild action film that is rarely seen today; rather than doing their own stunts, as Melvin Van Peebles does in this film, modern directors fill everything in with CGI. It just ain't the same, and if you want a big-screen look at how much better modern action films could be if they took a page from past greats, make sure you head over to VCU's Grace Street Theater (934 W. Grace St.) on Wednesday, April 18, to catch Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. With admission set at $5 ($3 for James River Film Society members), it's a steal at twice the price. The screening starts at 7 PM--more information can be found by clicking HERE. I'll see you there!
By Andrew Necci