directed by Göran Hugo Olsson
by Alex Jackson Goran Hugo Olsson's The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 begins with a disclaimer explaining that this film is not intended to categorically define the Black Power movement, but merely to represent a few Swedish filmmakers' impressions of it. This seemingly innocuous statement raises more questions than it answers. Why would Swedes want to tell this story in the first place? Do they have the right to tell this story? And what's the point of looking at the Black Power movement of the late-Sixties and early-Seventies in 2011? It seems the moment you make a film about the Black Power movement, it becomes a commodity to be consumed, at least in part, by a white audience. I believe that whites are attracted to stories of the black experience and to the icon of the black militant for a number of reasons, perhaps least among them liberal guilt. On an individual level, the white may feel disenfranchised and see the black militant as a kind of romantic ideal. Or maybe he believes himself to be relatively lacking in cultural identity and looks upon the strongly defined culture and identity of African-Americans to satisfy this need. The Black Power Mixtape is a compilation of direct documentary footage shot by Swedish journalists in the United States from 1967 to 1975. Olsson has mildly contextualized what we're seeing via several contemporary audio interviews with major figures like Angela Davis and Melvin Van Peebles, and he scores it to songs by The Jackson Five and The Roots; the film is a coherent and edifying history of the Black Power movement tightly wound into an efficient 96 minutes. But in unabashedly indulging our taste for nostalgia, and in preying on the fundamental emptiness of the "white experience," it's also a rollicking entertainment. (The spell is broken, briefly but provocatively, by a lingering shot of a heroin-addicted infant.) By consciously underlining the fact that he and his fellow countrymen are essentially outsiders interpreting this material, Olsson introduces a tension between the revolution-as-revolution and the revolution-as-pop. The film exists as one, the other, and everything in-between.