Independent Lens: The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 Is Exceptional
“In the late 1960 and early 1970s, Swedish television journalists came to America to document the burgeoning black power movement.” Göran Hugo Olsson combined those long-forgotten films and current-day audio interviews with leading African-American artists, activists, musicians, and scholars in his 2011 documentary, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975. The result is a stunning tapestry revealing a time when leaders like Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, Huey P. Newton, and Eldridge Cleaver were making headlines, with modern voices threaded through it, expressing the influence the time and those leaders had.
The original films included coverage of the Black Panthers, problems with heroin, life in Harlem, poverty, and (especially) politics. In addition there are appearances and audio commentary by Harry Belafonte, Kathleen Cleaver, Bobby Seale, and Angela Davis. Contemporary audio commentary features Erykah Badu, Robin Kelley, Talib Kweli, Melvin Van Peebles, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, and Sonia Sanchez. The recollections of the contemporary participants add immediacy to the documentary with discussion of how events in the 60s and 70s relate to and continue to influence modern America.
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is a powerful reminder of what the black power movement was about and what it was trying to achieve. It is also an intimate look at some of the leaders of the movement, not as leaders but as people. It will be broadcast on PBS, Thursday, February 9, 2012, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern (check local listings).