2011 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1967-1975

This film-by-film look at the World Cinema Documentary competition reaches the halfway point with Göran Hugo Olsson’s Swedish/US co-production, THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1967-1975, an astute condensation of pivotal years in the movement from a non-American viewpoint.

Sundance Program Description:

From 1967 to 1975, fueled by curiosity and naïveté, Swedish journalists traversed the Atlantic Ocean to film the black power movement in America. THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1967-1975 mobilizes a treasure trove of 16mm material, which languished in a basement for 30 years, into an irresistible mosaic of images, music, and narration to chronicle the movement’s evolution. Mesmerizing footage of Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, Angela Davis, and Eldridge Cleaver, as well as Black Panther activities, are peppered with B-roll footage of black America. These scenes take on a fresh, global angle through the outsider perspective of the Swedish lens.

Meanwhile, penetrating commentaries from artists and activists influenced by the struggle—like Harry Belafonte, Sonia Sanchez, Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, and Professor Robin D. G. Kelley—riff on the range of radical ideas and strategies for liberation. Their insights and the vibrancy of the unearthed footage render the black power movement startlingly immediate and profoundly relevant.

Some Background:
Olsson has previously received acclaim for two music oriented documentaries, FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU VERY MUCH and AM I BLACK ENOUGH FOR YOU (which was recently featured in BAMcinemaFEST), so it’s fitting that among his producing team is Co-Producer Joslyn Barnes, who produced SOUNDTRACK FOR A REVOLUTION, and executive produced the 2008 Sundance Documentary Grand Jury Prize-winning TROUBLE THE WATER with fellow MIXTAPE co-producer Danny Glover. Glover is also featured in the audio commentary, together with the present-day Angela Davis, and Questlove, who also provides the music for the film.

Why You Should Watch:
The film’s structure – visually consisting entirely of the 1967-1975 footage and supplemented aurally with contemporary interviews offering cogent commentary and reflection – is an intriguing way to present the remarkable, until now unseen material, creating a rich dialogue between the past and the present while still giving the interview subjects in the period footage their own voices. Additionally, with the film collapsing nearly a decade into such a short running time, the viewer is able to see stark changes in the Black Power movement over time due to governmental interference and to changes in society.

Screening Info:
For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph above. The film also has a website and Facebook page to keep interested audiences aware of upcoming screenings and other developments.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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