From the title, you wouldn't expect much, but Baadasssss! is one of the best movies of 2004. Mario Van Peebles writes, directs and stars as his father Melvin Van Peebles, reenacting what his father went through to create an indie film in the 1970's.
This moving drama takes a look at the creative and distributive process of Melvin Van Peeble's 1971 X-rated film Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song, a movie that - according to this movie - was the first to truly give black people a story and characters that catered to them. Melvin's ideas were radical (the movie is about a guy who kills some dirty white cops and saves Black Panthers) and he had trouble finding financers, but he became so obsessed with putting the movie to film that he ended up financing it himself, putting everything he held dear on the line. Forced to make cutbacks at every corner, Melvin struggled to get through production - only to be slapped with an X-rating that prohibited it from most theaters.
Honestly, I was expecting a completely different movie. I thought Baadasssss! was going to be a satire of 1970's blacks, but instead it turned out to be a moving and powerful drama about the first movie (supposedly) to not make a laughing stock out of black people. Baadasssss! has terrific acting, great direction and a story that everyone interested in the movie industry should see.
Baadasssss! does go the documentary route a little bit as Mario interviews the actors of his movie as if they were commentating on the genius and obsession of his father's work. The only problem with this is that it is not a true documentary; the actors are modern day actors pretending to be the original movie's cast and crew. The entire documentary aspect of the movie seemed a bit out-of-place.
Nonetheless, the rest of the movie is nearly flawless. Mario, who actually was a cast member in his father's original movie, really shows what a desperate time it was and how obsessive his father became in creating the movie. Baadasssss! feels very honest and intuitive.
Don't be fooled by the name - Baadasssss! is an excellent drama that is deep on so many levels. Obviously, the content is not for everyone, but for those of you who want to see what obsession and dedication look like, this is the film for you.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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