Articles: "Baadasssss Cinema" tribute to blaxploitation films of the ‘70s




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Melvin Van Peebles

Attention film aficionados!

If you have cable TV and a VCR, you might want to add the Independent Film Channel’s original documentary "Baadasssss Cinema: A tribute to blaxploitation films of the ‘70s" to your video library.

This is the kind of cable special that, if you don’t have it, you’ll be kicking yourself for years trying to find a copy.

It’s a keeper.

The one hour documentary covers the rise and fall of the genre that took its cue from the Civil Rights and Black Power movements

Filmmaker and Harvard professor Isaac Julien approaches blaxploitation from a personal point of view, punctuated with exclusive interviews with genre stars Pam Grier, Melvin Van Peebles, Gloria Hendry and Fred Williamson. Julien also offers classic behind the scene shots with composers Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield and "Shaft" director Gordon Parks.

"I’m a filmmaker who has thought about images and the representation of Black people for 20 years, and yet would never have dreamt of making blaxploitation films myself," Julien says. "It was with my students that I started to confront the fact that blaxploitation films were a large part of the history of Hollywood cinema."

Julien adds that both the black middle class and cinema historians have ignored the genre which was one of the longest-lived; from 1970-76.

Julien’s documentary highlights films that include "The Mack," "Coffy," "Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassssa Song," "Black Caesar" and others. He includes commentary by New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell, "Jackie Brown" director Quentin Tarantino and scholar/poet Bell Hooks.

"The study of this genre raised for me many questions," Julien says. "What's behind its popularity? How did someone like Pam Grier become a Hollywood icon? And why did the genre come to an end and why did Hollywood close the door on Black actors in the 70's, which meant that Black films would not surface again until the 90s."

Julien’s says that as a teenager he had been drawn to the funky aspect of blaxploitation films, even though some were so bad, their "badness" made them great.

"I thought by making this documentary," he says. "I could put some fun back into history."

Like the movies themselves, "Baadasssss Cinema" can be edgy, frank and adult oriented. But it’s also a true and insightful exploration of the genre.

Order your own copy of "Baadasssss Cinema."


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