starring Mario Van Peebles, Joy Bryant, T.K. Carter, Terry Crews
screenplay by Mario Van Peebles & Dennis Haggerty, based on the book Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song by Melvin Van Peebles
directed by Mario Van Peebles
by Walter Chaw In 1971, Melvin Van Peebles, weary of the way that Hollywood portrayed people of colour, set out under the guise of a non-union skin flick to make Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song, the highest-grossing independent feature of its time, and easily the most influential African-American picture of the modern age. It featured a black man as its mustachioed hero, sexual and virile, unafraid to stand up to police corruption and the stultifying social oppression of "the man" ("Rated X by an All-White Jury," its poster proclaimed), and it allowed him to rebel without punishing him in the final reel--a radical idea then, a radical idea now. Mario Van Peebles, thirty-three years after the fact, has crafted a surprisingly edged ode to the making of his father's film, Baadasssss! (originally titled How to Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass), which manages the tricky feat of replicating the insouciant rebellion of Melvin's political, if not cinematic, masterpiece while somehow sidestepping the trap of hagiography. Melvin, played by Mario, comes off as a man of principle, but also an adulterer, callous towards the needs and fears of his children, as well as the kind of battlefield general who keeps the goals of victory to himself.