The release of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song in 1971 was more than just a watershed moment in the history of independent cinema. It also marked the culmination of a Herculean effort by filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles to buck the honky unions, stay one step ahead of his creditors, and get his vision enacted on screen without interference from the suits -- all while hassling the Man at every conceivable opportunity. In fact, the story behind the making of Sweetback may be more engrossing, from a narrative point of view, than Sweetback itself! Now, 30 years after his father turned the film world on its ear, Mario Van Peebles takes on the challenge of telling that story, and succeeds brilliantly. Playing his own father, Van Peebles fils crafts an honest and revealing portrait of Melvin at the height of his cinematic power and influence. Rollicking, hilarious, and unsparing in its depiction of the guerrilla filmmaking process of the early 1970s, Baadasssss! depicts Melvin as he struggles to raise money to finance his magnum opus under the guise of creating a black porno film, bails out his crew after a cracker cop decides "a bunch of Negroes and hippies" can't have come by their camera equipment honestly, and perseveres through a series of death threats to shepherd his vision to the screen. This is more than just an homage; its an authentic, outrageous piece of filmmaking -- the kind that should make papa proud.
Mario Van Peebles has carved out a substantial career that is redefining and inspiring modern cinema in the same revolutionary style his father, Melvin, pioneered in the 1970s. Van Peebles made his directorial feature debut with New Jack City, in which he also played the starring role. He next directed and starred in the multicultural western, Posse. He received a Director's Guild nomination for his telefilm Malcolm Takes a Shot, and he won the Silver Leopard Award (among others) at the Locarno Film Festival for directing and co-producing Panther, a controversial film about the Black Panther Party. Most recently, Van Peebles portrayed Malcolm X in Michael Mann's Ali and starred in the indie feature The Hebrew Hammer with Adam Goldberg. He has also appeared in the telefilms 44 Minutes, Crown Heights, and Ten Thousand Black Men Named George, where he played Ashley Totten, who helped start the first U.S. union of Pullman train porters.