Sweetback Film Analysis

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Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song (1971; Sweetback hereinafter) is a low-budget, 97-minute-long independent film written, directed, produced and scored by Melvin Van Peebles (b. 1932). Its production is considered a watershed in the history of US filmmaking. Sweetback’s firm stand on racism in the movie industry and the wider US socio-political context is still pertinent today as the racist ideology is disturbingly still with us today. Hence, the importance of revisiting Sweetback to unpack its multifaceted stance and elucidate how it engages, spoofs and departs from the conventional, “whitestream” movie making practices for the sake of hammering its message home. I will confine myself to looking at how the filmmaker employs an array of cinematic …show more content…
The Black Panther Party was consolidated and its chapters knocked into shape. In its heyday, its members advocated black rights and assumed the responsibility to protect African Americans from police brutality, patrolling their neighbourhoods armed with guns and clubs. In such a turbulent epoch, there were still political imperatives to be voiced and rights to be claimed. Van Peebles was aware of this. His protagonist explicitly backs these demands by succouring Momo twice and dubbing him “our future.” The Panthers got his message and stormed the cinema houses to watch his nervy story of a “brother who is getting the Man’s foot outta his ass.” Sweetback did resonate with the anxieties and aspirations of black citizens at that time to such an extent that Huey P. Newton (1942-1989), the Party co-founder, devoted an entire issue of the Party’s newspaper to analysing the film, which was subsequently made required viewing for Party members nationwide (Angio). The way the movie depicts how corrupt and dishonest the policemen are forcefully indicts the coercive system they represent. Such a searing attack effectively debunks the myths of freedom and equality this system

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