Executive produced by actor and activist Danny Glover, “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975,” by Sweden’s Goran Hugo Olsson, was a winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film is an irresistible audiovisual collage that combines a treasure trove of footage of the 1967-1975 Black power movement, recently rediscovered after languishing for 30 years in the basement of the Swedish National Broadcasting Company, with penetrating commentary by leading contemporary African-American voices, set to an evocative soundtrack by ?uestlove of the Roots and Om’Mas Keith.
Opening Friday, Sept. 9 at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in New York City, the film, written and directed by Olsson, features Erykah Badu, Harry Belafonte, Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver, Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis, Louis Farrakhan, Kenny Gamble, John Forte, Robin Kelley, Talib Kweli, Huey P. Newton, Abiodun Oyewole, Sonia Sanchez, Bobby Seale, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson and Melvin Van Peebles.
At the end of the ’60s and into the early ’70s, Swedish interest in the American Civil Rights Movement and antiwar movement peaked. With a combination of commitment and naivete, Swedish filmmakers traveled across the Atlantic to explore the Black power movement, which was being alternately ignored and portrayed in the American media as a violent, nascent terrorist movement.
Despite the obstacles they were confronted with, both from the conservative white American power establishment and from radicalized movement members themselves, the Swedish filmmakers did not cease and ultimately formed bonds with key figures in the movement based on their common objective of realizing equal rights for all.
Olsson brings this newly discovered footage to light and introduces it to a new generation across the world in a penetrating examination-through the lens of the Swedish filmmakers-of the Black power movement from 1967 to 1975 and its worldwide resonance.
Filmed interviews include such figures as Carmichael, Cleaver, Seale and Davis when she was in prison, as well as footage from Lars Ulvestam’s televised film “Harlem: Voices, Faces.” (When that film aired in Sweden, the embarrassed United States ambassador to Sweden demanded and was granted airtime on Swedish television to explain away the film’s “many flaws.”)
Audio interviews with key contemporary figures complement the archival footage and create a formal mosaic that is uplifting and moving in its impact, introducing a new generation to a dynamic progressive movement for change.
At its heart, “The Black Power Mixtape” is a story about empowerment. It’s a moving and inspirational vehicle that takes the audience on a journey through the specific time period of 1967-1975 and the pressing issues of concern then-the Vietnam War, failing public schools, drug addiction, record levels of incarceration, extreme poverty, lack of government accountability and the pervasiveness of structural racism-while at the same time organically provoking deep questions about where Americans find themselves and the country today.
With a clear objective of introducing a new generation to the Black power movement, the filmmaker worked with some of today’s most talented artists, including ?uestlove, Keith and the Roots, to create a soundtrack that complements and enhances the form and content of the film.
As the movement went far beyond the purely political, the film also takes viewers on a cinematic journey into the styles, culture, fashion and, more deeply, questions of identity that were critical to the empowerment and education of subsequent generations.