*”The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975″ is an eye-opening, compelling documentary that captures the tumultuous period in history when African Americans were fighting against racial injustice in a country that denied them equal rights.
The film, which opens Sept. 23rd in Los Angeles, is playing exclusively at the Landmark Nuart Theater.
Co-produced by Danny Glover and his Louveture Films, the extensive 16mm footage was discovered by director Goran Hugo Olsson in the basement of a Swedish television station where it had languished for 30 years.
“I was working on a film in Sweden, so Olsson and his people came down from Stockholm and visit me in my hotel. Once they talked about the historic footage they had found, we were in,” Glover recalled. “We knew we wanted to be involved with the film. I saw pieces of the material and we gave Olsson suggestions as we began to shape the film. It became such a wonderful work process and it was really exciting for us to be involved in it.”
Glover said the film articulately captures the Black Power Movement as well as the tumultuous period in the country’s history that galvanized American society.
“For me, it captured a period of my life. It’s not only simply just a film-not simply of me looking at images. I remember those images and in some ways, those images were core images that shaped the presentation of a movement. The voices of people like Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis were people you looked at and listened to in order to further validate what you felt at the time.”
Pausing, he continues, “What happens is that when you have articulate voices talking about the issues that you exist and live in, it certainly helps you frame your ideas. You listened to what they had to say and their analysis as they deconstructed society in the radical tradition of black people. The remarkable footage was shot by Swedish journalists who traveled throughout the U. S. with the intent of “showing the country as it really is.”
What they caught on tape is a country undergoing radical transformation and upheaval-the ongoing protests against the Vietnam war, widespread police brutality, the war on drugs, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, the Attica prison uprising, and the virulent spread of heroin in the ghettoes.
But most strikingly, the archival footage vividly captures the leaders of the Black Power Movement who articulate the pain and passion of the black struggle in the U. S.
“There’s an urgency about them that is captured in the film,” observed Glover. “People are thinking that the revolution is going to happen now. They are in the midst of the embodiment of change. And that is the historic continuum that they were part of.”
The film captures a young Stokely Carmichael fielding questions by Swedish journalists who then describes his opposing political stance from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, saying, “Dr. King’s position was if you are nonviolent, if you suffer, your opponent will see your suffering and will be moved to change his heart. That’s very good. He only made one fallacious assumption. In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience. The United States has none.”
One of the most touching segments in the film is when Carmichael takes the microphone from a Swedish correspondent and interviews his mother, Mabel. In a revealing question-and-answer session, Carmichael gently prods her to talk about the struggles the family endured as they grappled with poverty and discrimination.
In another segment, a French reporter asks if Carmichael is afraid to go to jail. Carmichael deadpans, “I was born in jail.”
The film also captures an Afroed Angela Davis being interviewed in jail by a Swedish journalist. She expresses surprise when the interviewer asks if she advocates violence.
“You ask me whether I approve of violence. That doesn’t make any sense at all,” she answers.
“I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. Some very, very good friends of mine were killed by bombs. Bombs were planted by racists. I remember from the time I was very small the sound of bombs exploding across the street. The house shaking. I remember my father having to have guns at his disposal at all times because of the fact that at any moment we might expect to be attacked. The man who was at that time in complete control of the city government-his name was Bull Connor-would often get on the radio and make statement like ‘Niggers have moved into a white neighborhood. We’d better expect some bloodshed tonight.’ And sure enough, there would be bloodshed.”
The documentary also captures a young Louis Farrakhan eloquently espousing the philosophy of the Nation of Islam; Eldridge Cleaver explaining the philosophy of the Black Panthers, as well as candid interviews with Bobby Seale, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Huey P. Newton, Elaine Brown, the Last Poets Abiodun Oyewole and attorney William Kuntzler. There is also commentary from Harry Belafonte, Erykah Badu, hip-hop artist Talib Kweli actor/director Melvin Van Peebles and a superb soundtrack from Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson.
Badu succinctly and urgently articulates the need for documentation of black people by black people by commenting:
“We have to write and document our history, tell the story right. Don’t let anyone else document our history, or we’ll have our noses blown off.”
“I hope this film delivers the message that there’s still a struggle,” said Glover. “The Black Power Movement was more than just symbolic; it was part of a people’s attempt to re-imagine democracy to find ways in which they could be architects in the process of change. And that change has been radical change.”