Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011) ****

NR, 100 min.
Director/Writer: Göran Olsson
Starring: Angela Davis, Talib Kweli, Stokey Carmichael, Erykah Badu, Harry Belafonte, John Forté, Bobby Seale, Sonia Sanchez, Robin Kelley, Ahmir Questlove Thompson, Eldridge Cleaver, Kathleen Cleaver, Huey P. Newton

Sometimes it takes an outsider to see something that those close to it cannot. In 1971, T.V. Guide ran an article about how Swedish television unfairly portrayed the United States in their news media. The Swedish media was obsessed with the Black Power movement that took place in the late 60s and early 70s. Many of our black leaders used Sweden’s media outlets to get their messages out to the world. During the same time period Swedish filmmakers were coming to America to document that black experience in the U.S. Göran Olsson’s new documentary “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975” compiles footage from that time period to give a history of highlights of that volatile time in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.

The movie is a time capsule; not only back to black America of that time period, but back to Vietnam, and most importantly back to the perceptions the rest of the world may have held about what was going on in the U.S. The history is recounted mostly by present day anecdotes told in voice over by the black leaders of the time who are still alive and by the current generation of black leaders and entertainers. It’s eye opening to learn both foreign and first hand accounts of the ideas and feelings of that time period. Most significant is that almost uniformly those leaders agree that the injustices weren’t fueled so much by racial prejudice as they were by financial prejudice. The racism was there but often obscured the true problems at hand.

The most shocking element of this film is how much the political atmosphere of the late 60s is reflected in the atmosphere of today. Greed seems to be the inspiration for repression then and today. Today’s greed, however, doesn’t run only along racial lines. So where do we get our revolutionaries of today from?

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