Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner22/10/2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 96 mins

Impressively made documentary that paints a fascinating portrait of an important period in American history, not least because the perspective stands in stark contrast to the American media's coverage of the same events at the time.

What's it all about?
Directed (or, more accurately, assembled) by Swedish filmmaker Goran Olsson, Black Power Mixtape 1967 – 1975 is a documentary about the Black Power movement in America, compiled from footage shot by a Swedish television crew between 1967 and 1975. Progressing chronologically, the filmmakers secure exclusive and remarkably candid interviews with many of the movement's key figures, including Angela Davis, Stokeley Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver, Louis Farrakhan, Harry Belafonte and Huey Newton.

In addition, Olsson has interviewed a number of present-day musicians, artists and commentators (most notably Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli and Questlove) and their voiceovers often accompany the footage, though they don't appear on screen.

The Good
Olsson has uncovered some simply extraordinary footage, the highlights of which are: a moving interview with Angela Davis in jail (sporting an enormous 'fro and a bright orange jumper); a wonderful scene where Stokeley Carmichael borrows the microphone to interview his mother on behalf of the film crew; and an emotionally powerful interview with a teenage prostitute-slash-junkie who speaks hopefully about turning her life around. The film also contains some striking images, such as the beautifully framed shot of some young men on a basketball court that opens the film.

However, the most important element of the film is that, without being filtered by the paranoid, agenda-driven American media of the time, the Black Power movement is clearly shown to have deep roots in socialism and projects such as improving housing and education (incredibly, J Edgar Hoover calls free school lunches “a major threat” to America). Similarly, the film charts the rise of drug addiction amongst the black community and highlights the role that the Vietnam war played in spreading addiction amongst black soldiers.

The Bad
One minor problem is that the title leads you to expect a terrific accompanying soundtrack, but that's not the case, which feels like something of a missed opportunity. Similarly, there's occasionally a frustrating lack of context for some of the material.

Worth seeing?
By turns moving and fascinating, Black Power Mixtape is an important, thought-provoking documentary that deserves to be shown in schools everywhere. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 22/10/2017 00:24

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