What “Baadasssss!” does is show that creative process and the journey in getting it shown to the audience you want. This is not a film about a black man getting a movie about a black man made, this is the story about an artist getting his artistic vision realized, while the powers that be (the studios) did everything possible to halt the production, and it’s a topic any artist can relate to. Whether you’re writer, painter, or film director this is a film with a story and message that will speak to everyone in the creative field and convey some sense of hope in the story of Melvin Van Peeble’s torturous attempt to get a movie made.
In the role of Melvin Van Peebles is his son Mario Van Peebles who plays his beloved father and gives the performance of his career. Peebles also directs the movie as a docudrama with a mock documentary vibe and fake interviews from colleagues while we witness Melvin attempting to create his vision. His movie was the cult classic “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song”, an offbeat attempt to break free from the stereotypes of black culture at the time. What I adored so much about this was it perfectly pinpoints the creative process in writing and what it takes during that process of writing.
There are great emotions behind the artistry and in Melvin wanting people to see his film desperately, and Peebles puts his father on a pedestal and portrays him in such a positive light, it’s touching. We get to see a lot of the mechanics behind making a low budget film and the sacrifices Melvin made for this movie. Mario is very good as Melvin, owning the screen and grabbing the audience’s attention. Peebles captures the conflict of conscience with Melvin, and how hard he struggled with some eye-catching scenes where he talks to himself in the form of his character Sweetback.
There are also great supporting performances from people like Ossie Davis, Nia Long, David Alan Grier and many others who just pack this film with talent. Any one who loves movies about making movies and the mechanics about filmmaking will surely get a kick out of “Baadasssss!” While it attempts to be overly-artistic with goofy mock interviews during the movie, Peebles explores the creative process and filmmaking well with a very good performance, and fascinating peek in to Peebles’ drive to make the film he wanted while working around the studios.