I’ve never really been into black culture and black pop culture. Black as in African-American. And I’m even less interested in African culture. Unless it’s thrilling jungle yarns.
Blaxploitation is a genre that’s pretty cool — theoretically. But in reality, I find most blaxplo flicks rather boring. They’re saved by the cool music. That cool blaxplo funk is probably the only thing I like when it comes to black culture. The absolutely worst thing I know — next to reggae — is hip-hop and the lifestyle and attitude that accompanies it. It’s horrible. And for being called soul, soul music is remarkably over-produced and soulless.
But then, I grew up in a small town in southern Sweden, a town that back in those days was a very safe and innocent place. I only knew of two black people in my hometown, after a while a third one arrived. I listened to rock performed by white bands, everybody around me was white, my friends with immigrant backgrounds were usually born in Sweden.
The Black Power movement and the Black Panthers are phenomena I didn’t encounter until I was a teenager. Yes, they existed when I was a child in the ‘70s, but why should I know of them back then? I had probably thought that the Black Panthers was a superhero team lead by Luke Cage — Power Man.
Danny Glover’s Swedish career continues after acting in the drama “Dear Alice” (“För kärleken”, 2010; a very lame movie). He’s namely a co-producer of this Swedish documentary about black Americans political involvement and rebellion during the period mentioned in the movie’s title; 1967-1975.
According to the press material, the man behind this film; Göran Hugo Olsson, found documentary film footage in an archive in a basement, where it’s been for more than thirty years, totally forgotten. It’s not made clear what parts of the movie that are made up of this found footage — maybe all of it? — and we aren’t informed whether it’s been shown before. Maybe once on television? There are also clips from the news, were these old clips also found in that basement?
“The Black Power Mixtape” tells the story of the African-Americans fight for civil rights, mainly told via old interviews with Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and several others, and every now and then, some new interviews are heard on the soundtrack, without showing the interviewees: Melvin Van Peebles, Harry Belafonte, an older Angela Davis, plus a bunch of people I don’t know who they are — rappers, maybe? In the old clips, you also see the expected people like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, but also less expected gentlemen — like king Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden.
Huge chunks of the movie is about armed uprising and that’s something I can’t say I approve of. Small black children are drilled to hate the police and are taught how to handle fire arms. And if you think this is something obvious — which the interviewees seem to do — you’re of course not much better than the ones who are supposed to be the enemy.
Everything in this movie is of course interesting, but what I find most interesting are the parts about TV Guide. That’s right. TV Guide. The most read magazine in America. In the early 1970s, a journalist from that mag wrote about Holland and most of all about Sweden and our view of the United States. The journalist is interviewed and talks about the hatred against the U.S.A. that pervaded Sweden in those days.
Even if I was unaware of the black Americans fight when I was a kid, I noticed the hatred against America. And I didn’t understand it. To me as a little kid, America was the best country in the world. They made the best movies and TV shows. All great superhero comics came from America. My favorite bands were American. Everything cool was American. I never understood why some weird adults — for example on the back then left-wing TV channel TV2 — were so incredibly negative to this in my eyes fantastic country. And I sure wasn’t impressed by the flea-infested, flute playing, sprout-eating, Che Guevara worshiping killjoys who didn’t approve of the stuff I loved. And still today, there are hordes of Swedes and west Europeans, mainly young ones, who really hate America — thanks to Bush and all of his wars. But I think these hateful youngsters should go to some average small towns in the States and walk up to the average, working class guys, who just try to make a living and support their families, and say “I hate you and your goddamn country!” — and see what happens.
One thing that strikes me when I see Olsson’s documentary, is how naive we were in Sweden forty years ago. A little innocent — Sweden didn’t lose its innocence until Prime Minister Olof Palme was assassinated in 1986, something we never thought could happen in this country. And as legendary comics artist Jan Lööf said the other year, after I had asked him about his relation to the left-wing movement of the ‘60s: “I had buddies who worshiped mass murderers!”. Lööf wasn’t very left-wing, I suppose he was a humanist.
Hm, I guess I have to stop myself here. I feel I’m slipping away from the subject. Where was I? Oh yeah, right here.
To wrap this review up: “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975”, that’s been screened both at Sundance (where it got itself an award for Best Editing) and at Berlin, and which opened in Sweden in April, 2011, is very good, well-made and interesting. But as I often think when I see this type of documentaries mainly consisting of talking heads: why does it open theatrically? This looks like a TV program and not a theatrical release!
“The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975” opens in the States (limited release) on September 9, 2011.
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