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Film review: Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

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Black Power MixtapeIf you were asked which nation the most in-depth and profound footage of the Black Power movement comes from, I doubt that answer would be ‘Sweden’! But that is exactly where the footage for this brilliant visual ‘mixtape’ originates.

At the end of the Sixties, and into the mid-Seventies Swedish documentary-makers shot hours of footage capturing the birth of the Black Power movement in the US. Originally shown on Swedish television, it has now been reassembled into this thought-provoking package.

With new comment from prominent black figures from the movement and the present day, cut with a brand new original score put together with contemporary black artists including Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson (from The Roots) and Erykah Badu - this is new type of documentary.

Free from spin, conjecture and shot from a complete outsider’s perspective Black Power Mixtape simply presents a vision of the movement as it was, as a moment in time – warts and all, laid bare. As this was something rarely done at the time in the US, this is what makes this a special viewing experience.

The film takes us from the emergence of Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panthers, through the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the uprising at Attica prison, the trial of Angela Davis and the emergence of the Nation of Islam.

In the context of the racial treatment of the time it is hard to see the Black Panther Party as the ‘terrorists’ the popular media played them out to be, and sheds new light on their ‘aggressive’ stance..

The movie’s strength is in the candid footage and interviews with figures like Carmichael and Angela Davis, which give unseen insight into the situation and also add a much needed human face to figures often dehumanised by history and media perception.

It’s sole focus on one aspect of America, whilst being its strength, this is also its only downfall. Addressing  further American society at the time could have added balance and made the film all the more powerful.

This is by no-means a complete history of the civil rights and Black Power movements but it is a glorious snapshot of a time we rarely get to glimpse at. It also shows the depth of the struggles and how the stand that these people took has lead to the situation and culture we have today.

Black Power Mixtape is a must see for anyone with any more than a passing interest in black history and culture.

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