Baadasssss! (2003)

Mario Van Peebles, Nia Long, Joy Bryant, Ossie Davis,
[link=nm0005522]' half-documentary/half-homage to his father [link=nm0887708]' movie [link=tt0067810].
  • 7.3 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Melvin Van Peebles, Dennis Haggerty, Writer:
  • Director:
  • Producer:


/ 10

This is now just being shown in select theaters across the country andI got the chance to see this film just the other night,and it is awelcome sigh of relief from the outcome of summer rubbish that isclogging the nearby multiplexes. But with "Baadasssss!",co-writer anddirector Mario Van Peebles has offered a stunning tribute to hisfather,Melvin Van Peebles,whose groundbreaking 1971 classic film becameone of the highest-grossing independent films of that year,and alsoopened the floodgates for a string of blaxploitation movies to comethroughout the decade of the 1970's. The film is also a case ofcinematic one-upsmanship in which Mario Van Peebles,himself,plays hisfather Melvin,warts and all,during the course of the older man'sproduction of his greatest claim to fame,the cult sensation independentfilm of 1971,"Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song",which was in fact afilm that didn't get much hearsay when it first came out,but by word ofmouth became the surprise hit of that year since the 1971 film was "X"rated by an all-white jury for some outlandish content and shockingscenes.

For those individuals who have never seen this blaxploitationclassic,or who have managed to see it in its entirely in the videostore or in college film courses or during midnight screenings oncollege campuses(where it is shown during Black History Month)or mostrecently during Black Film Festivals where panel discussions are formedregarding this landmark cinematic piece of African-Americanfilm-making. The picture "Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song",starsMelvin Van Peebles himself as a bordello stud performer in Los Angeleswho gets arrested and beaten by racist White cops,kills two of them,andmanages to escape(the movie concluded with Van Peebles runningendlessly over hill and dale)while he stays on the lam,while the chantsthroughout blasts out: "You killed my momma!","You killed mypoppa!","You killed my brother!", "You killed my sister!"......."Butyou won't killed me!"............. The picture was very low budgetmaking it grainy and hallucinogenic in the fashion of that era and itfeatured a throbbing,Greek chorus style accompaniment from an unknownband at the time...Earth,Wind,and Fire who would go on to become one ofthe most successful funk/R&B bands of the 1970's. "Sweetback" iscredited with being the first film to have a black man taking charge ofhis own production and his own financing of the film and his ownrepresentations through his own independent film company,which was abold and prosperous move at the time. "Sweetback" introduce to theworld black street language and attitudes plus it wa also a winner tocelebrate a lawless hero who stood up to the wrongful doings of the Manand came up a bonafide winner.

In "Baadassss!",Mario Van Peebles re-creates from start to finish themaking of "Sweetback" and the convulsive life around the production.Now in his mid-forties,he plays his father at roughly the same age,andfollowing his father,he wrote the screenplay for the movie(with DennisHaggerty),co-produced,and directed it. He has not just stepped into hisfather's shoes,but captured every stanza and every body movement and itworks very well here. The story of this famous tale of Melvin VanPeebles goes this way:in 1970,after directing the controversialsuccessful comedical satire "Watermelon Man",starring GodfreyCambridge,Van Peebles(who had a three-picture deal with ColumbiaPictures at the time)turning his back on the glad-handing executives atColumbia,and the way Hollywood portrayed blacks on film,was thinking ofexplaining his vision to his agents whom turned him down so instead tomake this film he had to be manipulative and devious enough to pull offthe impossible,and he did. As far as the story goes,he did a lot ofhustling to get this film made whatever the odds were against him whichwas a phenomenal amount of accomplishments he had to face to get thisoff the ground and running. Melvin passes the film off as a black"porn-movie" and shoots a scene to further that impression,but he hadto enlists the help of a lot of people including a white stoner,a blackporn producer,a reclusive gangbanger,and other social undesirableswhich includes a Bob Evans-style producer that turns out to be agay-shooter too(and that is played by Adam West....yes,that Adam West.That's right boys and girls....Batman himself)not to mention using hisown kids for this project as well. The movie captures some of thedesperation and the easy pleasures of the period which turns out to bean exhausting,pleasurable,great piece of entertainment for a greatsummer escapism. However,"Baadassss!" is a celebration of sorts,whichin turn reminds us that the political fervor that animated the films ofMelvin Van Peebles and his contemporaries has largely disappeared fromthe American scene which there are notable exceptions such as MichealMoore's "Fahrenheit 9/11",and Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing". In anera where black entertainers are producing too many borderline minstrelentertainment like "Barbershop","White Chicks","Soul Plane",Mario VanPeebles' "Baadassss!" is a welcome call to arms,and its a grand honorto represent one of the great pioneers of Black Cimema. But it is alsoa mystery to this day for the son of Melvin Van Peebles,Mario whosegreatest achievement as a film director,the 1991 crime-drama,"New JackCity",and the 1992 all-black western "Posse",and as an B-listed actordoesn't get the ultimate respect he greatly deserves. Let's hope hegets some respect here with this stunning tribute.

/ 10

I can't begin to say how great this film is, and how much it meant tome. I'm not a big fan of some of Mario Van Peebles' work, so to me,this is by far his best job, acting and directing. He captured thepower and the struggle of fighting for a dream/vision, and he made theaudience take the journey with him. In fact, this film renewed byinterest in the original "Sweetback ..." and made me appreciate theoriginal film to a much greater degree. I saw this film on it's openingweekend, and I pre-ordered it as soon as I found out it was coming toDVD.

Essentially, Mario plays Melvin (his father) while he was creating theindependent film classic, 'Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song'. Wewatch as Van Peebles struggles with family, "the man" and his ownpersonal demons to complete a film that, by all industry models, shouldnot have been made. It was black, sexual, political, and there wasbarely enough money to get it off the ground. But Van Peebles was a badmother{watch your mouth}, and he was determined to make it anyway.

If you are a filmmaker, put this film in your "must see" list. If youare struggling to build a business, follow a path less traveled, or gofor any dream that seems almost out of reach, this film is also a mustsee for you. And, if you just want to see the power of passion, and seewhat a person can do on too little budget with too little time when allhe has to make up for the deficit is his heart, see this film! (Thatlast comment was about Mario, but it is also apropos for Melvin, thesubject of this film).

There is nudity and strong language in the film. I mention that becauseI wouldn't want to send anyone to a film that might offend them withoutforewarning. That said, see this film!

/ 10

Ever wonder what it would be like to make your own film without astudio to support you and no money in the bank to fund it. Well,thankfully Mario Van Peebles' father forged ahead in the 70s with adream and passion like no other. While Hollywood was content withmaking pictures that negatively depicted African Americans, Melvin VanPeebles decided to break this cultural norm and change the face ofcinema.

With no budget, money from friends and drug dealers, and a non-unioncrew, Melvin created the impossible. He grabbed a hold of an idea andlet nothing get in the way from accomplishing it. Melvin had a dream ofmaking an African American the center of the film, one that took nosass from anyone and criticized the modern white Government. While bigstudios backed away from this project, Melvin jumped forward made SweetSweetback's Baadasssss Song. There were trial and tribulations to getit done, but thanks to a very surprising source the film became asuccess. It was the first independent film to become the number onefilm in America.

Similar to the passion seen in Melvin's eyes when he is making hislow-budget film, Mario portrays that exact same involvement when makingthis low-budget film. What I loved about this film is that there is somuch raw, unbridled emotion behind Mario's eyes that you can tell thathe 1) loves his Dad and 2) wanted to show America the truth behind thisinnovator's life. This is Mario's past, and he superbly reenacts it onscreen. He carries this film, showing us the many facets of his father.He shows the angry American, the independent talent, the powerfulleader, and even the emotional parent. Through all of this Mariocontinues to keep this film focused and interesting. We cannot keep oureyes off his portrayal of his father. I would not be surprised if he isnominated for an Oscar this year.

Finally, this is a very powerful film that speaks about a side ofHollywood that is less known. It shows how the boundaries of racism canbe broken with imagination and persistence. It shows that 'all men arecreated equal' and that if you have a dream you should pursue it. Ifyou are in the process of making your own film and need a movie thatwill inspire and motivate, this would be the film to watch. From themoment I put this film in my DVD player, I was glued. What a powerfulstory coupled with interesting actors (Adam West and Sally Struthers)and told with a very realistic voice.

I highly recommend this film.

Grade: **** out of *****

9/10 / 10

I had been putting off seeing this, and then was pleasantly surprised.

I didn't know much about Mario Van Peebles, nor of his father ("SweetSweetback's Baad Asssss Song" came out 2 years before I was born) butafter seeing this homage to Mr. Van Peebles and seeing how much herisked - everything from finances to his family and his own health, forhis dream of "the world" to really see life from the African Americanpoint of view, the way it really is, is well impressive to say theleast.

The unimaginable struggle, the pressure and the sheer will that Marioportrays in his father is a touching tribute. Mario reveals hisfather's motives for making "Sweetback" in a moving and heartfelt way,documenting how Hollywood portrayed races other than white - if you arenot white, then you are the white man's servant - how at that time - noone and no other film had film portrayed a Black Man as a hero or thestruggles that he or any other race faces. It is a tale that is biggerthan him and despite the risk and struggle, he fights to tell it. Thisis a fitting homage to a pioneer of a Genre and a Father.

"Baadasssss!" It also depicts the rugged world of guerrilla film-makingand the rabid fight involved in making an indie film from inception todistribution. After seeing this I take a much greater heed of the VanPeebles Name, "Baadasssss!" is worthy film as a Drama in its own right,an Homage to a Pioneer and Father and as a Documenty Tribute to a Pieceof Film History.

10/10 / 10

"Baadasssss!" beats out Truffaut's "Day For Night" as the greatestmovie ever made about the movie business. What Mario Van Peebles doeshere is nothing short of extraordinary: he manages to inform the viewerabout independent film-making while also incorporating an enthrallingportrayal of a man obsessed by his unique version of the Americandream.

Like "Adaptation", the film is a dizzying array of comedy, satire,family drama, and a little bit of Freudian psychology. Van Peebles,casting himself as his father, obviously doesn't glorify theproduction, but tells the story of the making of "Sweetback" in alow-key and understandable manner. He doesn't make his father a hero ora villain but rather a man pushed to his limits. The backstage anticsare sometimes funny, but more often are simply incredible to believe.Van Peebles' daring use of "American Splendor"-like documentarytransitions are also wonderfully effective.

It must be said that I have not seen "Sweet Sweetback's BaadasssssSong" and it's hard to fathom that this film would actually be betterupon after viewing it (I'm not suggesting that I won't look for thefilm next time I'm at the video store). Like its subject, "Baadasssss!"is a revolutionary film, and should not be limited to film buffs orfans of Mario Van Peebles; this is a movie any casual film-goer wouldthoroughly enjoy.