One of the first things you’ll see in The Black Power Mixtape is a title that reads: “This film consists of footage shot by Swedish reporters 1967–1975. It does not presume to tell the whole story of the Black Power Movement, but to show how it was perceived by some Swedish filmmakers.” We admire the modesty of the director, Göran Hugo Olsson. But his caveat doesn’t do justice to the quality, immediacy, and universal relevance of the film that follows. (In limited release next month.)
Olsson has assembled footage—much of it rediscovered—that 14 Swedes shot in America in the turbulent 1960s and ’70s. Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, Kathleen Cleaver, Melvin Van Peebles, Harry Belafonte, and other notables provide the latter-day commentary. (“You have some dedicated black Americans who will die a million deaths to save America,” Last Poets member Abiodun Oyewole says in one remarkable voice-over. “This is home for us. We don’t really know Africa. We talk about it in a romantic sense. But America’s it. And so America is always going to be okay, as long as black people don’t totally lose their mind. ’Cause we’ll pick up the pieces, and we’ll turn it into a new dance.”) And yet The Black Power Mixtape is also full of intimate, in-the-moment scenes—like the one in which Stokely Carmichael’s mom talks about her son’s first arrest—that bring the surrounding narratives to life. The film doesn’t strive to be balanced or fair (although, of course, fairness and balance are the issues in play). To Olsson’s credit, that does very little to detract from the documentary’s impact.
This post is from Observer Short List—an email of three favorite things from people you want to know. Sign up to receive OSL here.