18 December 2011

THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1967 - 1975 (Dir. Göran Hugo Olsson, 2011, Sweden)

Olsson's documentary on the black power movement uses footage that was shot by Swedish film makers between 1967 and 1975 with new audio interviews from prominent Black artists including musicians and political leaders. Co-produced by Danny Glover, The Black Power Mixtape is not a polemic nor is is poetic in terms of the documentary medium, but what it does so effectively is make us think differently about a certain period of time. So, perhaps it is revisionist in one sense. The footage was discovered in a basement in Sweden where it had remained for over thirty years. Given the sophisticated approaches now evident in so many documentaries, this one keeps it simple by juxtaposing interviews from Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, Stokely Carmichael to the contemporary reflective voices of figures including Talib Kweli, Errykah Badu, Robin Kelley who offer tangible proof of the inspiring legacy of the black power movement. The interviews themselves shot by Swedish film makers offer some of the most eloquent, articulate and revolutionary voices of that turbulent era. Perhaps most complex is that of Angela Davis who we hear commenting over her own interview. Ideologically, the chosen period of 1967 to 1975 concerns itself with an urgency in terms of black militancy that was shaping the attitudes of the black community in America. However, as the black panthers enter the political arena it is clear to see that the emphasis shifts radically. No longer does it become a struggle about black and white but transforms into an international Marxist class struggle between the oppressor and oppressed. In many ways, this is exactly what struck fear into the white establishment and J Edgar Hoover responded with the now famous reply that the black panthers program of offering breakfast to impoverished black kids in the community represented the biggest threat to capitalist hegemony. The black panthers ideology seemed to make sense though, suggesting that for revolution to take place, the mind and body must be healthy and be equipped to use intellectual violence as well as self defense as primary tools to take on the establishment and challenge the powers that be. This is a powerful and revelatory documentary that reaffirms the vitality of the critical discourse on the black power movement.

Here is the first part of an interview with Danny Glover:

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