"Baadassss!" is Mario Van Peebles' fond commemoration of his cantankerous father's bull-headed cinematic audacity. An unblinking, if slightly golden-toned, account of the making of Melvin Van Peebles' violent, dark, gritty and groundbreaking "Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song," it's a clear labor of love, and so much the better for it.
"Sweetback" -- a "ghetto Western" about a slick, taciturn pimp who becomes a hunted man for killing a couple thug cops who beat a black militant -- scared the hell out of Hollywood, yet its success ($15 million in limited release in 1971) gave rise to scores of shallower imitators that became the blaxploitation genre of "Coffy" and "Shaft."
Getting the divisive, patently anti-establishment film made was a nightmare of financing and bounced checks ("Baadasssss!" implies that drug money was to be used before Bill Cosby stepped in), of casting (writer-director Melvin played the lead when he couldn't find the right actor), of union problems (the industry guilds were practically all-white at the time -- and expensive), of controversy (an X rating), and of distribution (only two privately-owned theaters would touch it at first).
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