Outsiders Tell the Story of the Other America in 'Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975'

This film gives us a look back at a puzzling and fascinating moment in American history that casts a different light on '60s idealism and the death of that decade's ideals.

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

Director: Göran Hugo Olsson
Cast: Stokely Carmichael, Huey P. Newton, Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli,Angela Davis.
Distributor: MPI
Rated: Not rated
Release date: 2011-12-13

This treasure of a film from Göran Hugo Olsson is not just a feat in storytelling and (as has been noted elsewhere) editing, but in memory and history, as well. Based on films made by Swedish television crews between 1967 and 1975 as they attempted to get the real story of the United States and its complex relationships with freedom and race, The Black Power Mixtape moves at an impressive pace and yet still feels comprehensive, even if it doesn't tell the entire story of the Black Power movement. It's often as sad as it is uplifting, and the story it tells is as important today as it was then; the legacy of the dreams of an earlier nation perhaps finally coming to fruition.

Archival footage of Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver, is mixed with commentary from Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, John Forte, and Robin Kelley––images of the elder generation and their frustrations and the injustices that were visited upon them are played against the words of their spiritual descendents who have benefited from the hard work and dedication of these noble––if, for some, frightening––figures.

With the Civil Rights movement crumbling, leaders such as Carmichael, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan found footing in black America while Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream began to fade as the nation stirred from its slumber. Even King, we learn, had begun to question some elements of his own vision. America was also at war and although Lyndon Johnson wanted to bring peace to warring factions of black and white at home, he was promoting bombing and burning in Asia.

The voices of radicalism grew louder, while some whispered that Farrakhan had been instrumental in deposing Malcolm X, The Black Panthers worked to educate and protect the black community even though the simplest moves, such as free breakfasts for children, were deemed positively dangerous by J. Edgar Hoover. Elsewhere, Davis saw the death penalty looming in her future and TV Guide criticized Swedish television as being hostile toward American ideals. (Some have suggested that the film suffers from a lack of insider perspective but the idea of outsiders telling the story of other outsiders is fascinating and appealing; moreover, the idea that TV Guide was especially vocal on this issue is particularly humorous.)

As incredible as the story seems at times it is, of course, sadly true, and the depth and honesty which the original crew displayed in telling the story is both admirable and––even more than 35 years after the final chapter unfolded––painfully fresh. This is the story, after all, of a group of alternate American heroes, who upheld many of the ideals on which the nation was founded and were punished for it, deemed as outlaws and radicals for the simple desire to obtain equality––not superiority––and freedom.

A variety of bonus features augment the original feature film, including a segment about Joan Little, who murdered a white prison guard, claiming that he had attempted to sexually assault her. She was found not guilty of the 1974 crime and her trial proved a landmark case in American legal history. There’s also a featurette on Carmichael, extended interviews with Davis, Farrakhan and Shirley Chisholm, as well as the film’s trailer.

Each of these is as illuminating as anything in the film and, like the best bonus material, truly enhances the overall experience.

The Black Power Mixtape is and will remain one of the most important films of this decade.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.