Melvin Van Peebles: The Baadasssss Interview

On the 40th anniversary of the release of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, the famed filmmaker tells The Root why he's the illegitimate godfather of blaxploitation.


In 1971, filmmaker-musician-dramatist-commodities trader Melvin Van Peebles launched a movie revolution with his über-low-budget, highly political indie flick, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. Sweetback was the largest-grossing independent film of its time, featuring cinema's first ghetto hero, played by Van Peebles himself. Today he's written a graphic novel, Confessions of a Ex-Doofus-Itchyfooted Mutha, and plays regular gigs with his band, Melvin Van Peebles wid Laxative. Sir Melvin -- he was awarded the French Legion of Honor -- takes The Root's Teresa Wiltz on a tour of his Manhattan pied-à-terre, waxing on about why he's the "illegitimate godfather of blaxploitation," why Shaft and all those other films are racist and how he managed to get workers' comp after he contracted an STD on the set of Sweetback.

Want to hear what Van Peebles has to say about Tyler Perry? Like us on Facebook to see exclusive outtakes from the shoot.


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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM