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USA: Sony Pictures Classics
UK: BFI (Access)
Cast: Mario Van Peebles, Joy Bryant, T K Carter, Terry Crews, Ossie Davis, David Alan Grier, Nia Long, Paul Rodriguez, Saul Rubinek, Vincent Schiavelli, Khleo Thomas, Rainn Wilson, Karimah Westbrook, Len Lesser, Sally Struthers, Jazsmin Lewis, Adam West, Ralph Martin, Robert Peters, Glenn Plummer, Khalil Kain, Pamela Gordon, Wesley Jonathan, Joseph Culp, John Singleton, Joan Blair, Penny Bae Bridges, Mandela Van Peebles, E J Callahan, Keith Diamond, Don Dowe, Brent Schaffer, Mickey Mello, Christopher Michael, Tyrone M. Mitchell, Alan James Morgan, David Alan Smith, Nathan Wetherington, Robin Wilson, Paul Roach, Marley Van Peebles, Maya Van Peebles, Bridget Avildsen, Craig Jones, Kate Krystowiak, Anthony Rodriguez, Thomas Longo, Robert Yosses, Danny Hebert, Michele Hill, Les Miller, Bob Primes, Buzzxsassy, Rey Riogo
Director: Mario Van Peebles
USA & UK: 108 mins
USA Rated: R for pervasive language and some strong sexuality/nudity
UK Certificate: 15 contains strong language and sex
USA Release Date: 28 May 2004 (Limited Release)
UK Release Date: 10 June 2005
The year was 1971 and the hot ticket at the box office was THE FRENCH CONNECTION. Little did audiences and the film industry know that in the same year the birth of a new era was about to explode...Independent Black Cinema.
The city was Detroit, and a weathered Melvin Van Peebles sat alone in the Grand Circus theatre watching only a few ticket buyers enter where his new film - his follow up to the successful comedy WATERMELON MAN - was about to play. After months of clawing, scheming and fighting to finish the film he wanted to make, the moment had arrived, and in a virtually empty theatre, Melvin sat with just a few curious onlookers. By the end of the screening, Melvin was alone. No one could have predicted what happened after that momentous end would be the beginning of history.
Melvin Van Peebles stunned the world for the first time with his debut feature THE STORY OF A THREE-DAY PASS. Filmed in France and selected as the French entry in the San Francisco Film Festival, Melvin's film was awarded the top prize. Saying it was controversial would be an understatement. In 1968, for a black man to walk up to the podium and accept the top festival award for a film he had to go abroad to make now that's how you make your mark.
After his comedy WATERMELON MAN, Melvin was determined to push the Hollywood boundaries with the groundbreaking, and even more controversial, SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAADASSSSS SONG. Turned down by every major studio including Columbia, where he had a three-picture deal, Melvin was forced to basically self-finance. Risking everything he had, Melvin delivered to the world the first Black Ghetto hero on the big screen, whether they were ready or not!
Mario Van Peebles, Melvin's son, directs an honest and revealing portrait of his pioneering father. Following in his dad's footsteps, and documenting his exceptional journey towards political defiance through cinema, Mario directs and stars as Melvin in BAADASSSSS!, based on the book Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song written by his father right after making SWEETBACK. The book went onto become a best seller, has been translated into several languages and is now a standard in university film classes. Despite the fact that initially only two theatres in the whole United States would play his film, SWEETBACK became the top grossing independent hit of 1971 spawning a decade of similar studio fair SHAFT, SUPERFLY and FOXY BROWN. Melvin had brought the hood to Hollywood.