Sunday, January 15, 2012
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (Sweden; Goran Olsson, 2011)
Having recently finished a 13-week class on Blaxploitation film, the study of which cannot be complete without discussing its close ties to the Black Power movement that was gaining popularity at the time its production, viewing this Swedish perspective on the BP years was an insightful glimpse through a foreign eye (which I incidentally also possess) of one of the most defining moments of 20th century America. As a weak-but-fierce Angel Davis herself proclaims during a hunger strike behind bars, to question the need for violence in such a revolution is to be ignorant of the daily realities facing the black community (at that time?). This ignorance is what this film seems intent on rectifying. Whether it succeeds or not is beyond my knowledge, seeing as all I have as an understanding of these events is a collection of various processed memories that each want to paint the era in a specifically defining light. However, one cannot deny the film's worth in providing us with deeply moving and profoundly revealing bits of stock footage. Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, Bobby Seale and many others are heard in the flesh, giving us a firsthand account of the roots and purposes of the Black Power philosophy. These images are supported (but never visually replaced) by voice-over commentaries spoken by various influential figures, some of which are seen in the footage and awarded the benefit of being able look back on themselves and reflect on these unforgettable years. While the film seems to veer towards the melodramatic side as it progresses, the images conserve their evocative power until the very end.