Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song

USA 1971. Dir: Melvin Van Peebles. 97 min. DCP

“The granddaddy of blaxploitation ... This sulphurous nightmare of racial paranoia and revenge eclipses even Reservoir Dogs in evoking a world of infinite seaminess, injustice, and cruelty.”

NEW RESTORATION! “Rated X by an all-white jury,” declared posters for Melvin Van Peebles’s badass 1971 feature, a landmark of African-American independent filmmaking — and, with Gordon Parks’s Shaft, released the same year, a work that launched the transformative blaxploitation movement. Van Peebles — the film’s director, writer, producer, editor, composer, and star — plays brothel-raised sex stud Sweetback, who decides to take on The Man after he witnesses two corrupt white cops beating up a black activist. The film, incendiary and uncompromising, employs avant-garde and art-house techniques in its rendering of an hallucinogenic world of violence, distrust, and racism. There’s also more than a little raunch! Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton praised Sweet Sweetback as “the first truly revolutionary Black film.” Van Peebles’s soundtrack is performed by Earth, Wind & Fire, who had formed the year before. Film courtesy of Xenon Pictures, Vinegar Syndrome and the American Genre Film Archive.



"A shrewd and powerful mix of commercial ingredients and ideological intent."

Chicago Reader | full review

"A radical blaxploitation classic."

Sight & Sound | full review