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Fri-Sun, Nov 19-21 | Tue, Nov 23


  • Dir. Melvin Van Peebles
  • USA
  • 1971
  • 97 min.
  • NR
  • DCP
  • Assistive Listening
  • Hearing Loop

Part of Weekend Classics.

Among the all-time great American independent films, Melvin Van Peebles’s visionary third feature marked nothing short of a cinematic revolution. “Dedicated to all the Brothers and Sisters who had enough of the Man” (as announced by one of the film’s opening title cards), SWEET SWEETBACK’S BAADASSSSS SONG stars Van Peebles as Sweetback, an orphan abandoned in an L.A. brothel in the 1940s who grows up to become a sex show performer. 

During a run-in with the LAPD, Sweetback saves a Black Panther from a brutal assault by the cops but then finds himself on the lam — beginning a picaresque journey in which he encounters Black militants, hippies, biker gangs, old flames, and the clergy as he tries to flee to Mexico. A frenetic work of restless invention with an iconic soundtrack (courtesy of a then-unknown Earth, Wind & Fire), it was hailed at the time by Huey Newton as the “first truly revolutionary Black film ever made… [and] presented to us by a Black man.” (Synopsis from Film at Lincoln Center)

4K digital restoration approved by filmmaker Mario Van Peebles.

“...Still retains its shock value, but even more so, it remains distinct as a work that cannot be squarely placed within a singular category.” —Clayton Dillard, Slant Magazine

“Van Peebles’ visual style blends the uncanny staging of home movies with a French New Wave perspective on iconography and metaphors…. Read anybody’s take on the film today and half love it while the other half loathes it. That contrast typically indicates you’ve done something right. Regardless, [it] brazenly kicked the door open for everything from direct imitators like SHAFT, SUPERFLY and DOLEMITE to modern filmmakers like Tyler Perry and Ice Cube. Whether you love it or hate it, we owe this film a debt because it literally changed the world.” —Chuck Foster, Film Threat

The Belcourt Theatre does not provide advisories about subject matter or potential triggering content, as sensitivities vary from person to person.

Beyond the synopses, trailers and review links on our website, other sources of information about content and age-appropriateness for specific films can be found on Common Sense MediaIMDb and as well as through general internet searches.

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