“The Black Power Mixtape examines the evolution of the Black Power Movement in the black community and Diaspora from 1967 to 1975. The film combines music, startling 16mm footage (lying undiscovered in the cellar of Swedish Television for 30 years), and contemporary audio interviews from leading African-American artists, activists, musicians and scholars.”
This film affected the two spaces that I live in – the personal and the professional – and very profoundly. The effect is not something that I can put into words very easily. It’s more of a feeling that won’t go away.
Here’s a list of the explicable, in no specific order:
1. Attention to Detail:
Aestetically, The Black Power Mixtape is simple. The absence of distraction forces the viewer to pay more attention to what is being said through narration, subtitles, and interview. Yet the brilliance of the film’s design shows through the most subtle details – like the way in which the numbers of the years fade off the screen. A commitment to the look of a film must be taken from start to finish.
2. The Way I Look In The Mirror:
Two words: Angela Davis. The scene where she commands an audience with a sense of femininity and a ‘fro was the reassurance I needed neither of black’s power nor of a black female’s power but of the power of the true self, whatever that may be. When I look in the mirror, I see a self that I’m prouder of everyday.
Black history is scarcely taught in the schoolroom. I thought I’d had an education that made up for this. From Kindergarten to Middle School, my mom visited my class during Black History Month and taught. I had to downplay my knowledge of the answers during the games at the end. In 8th grade, my teacher told us that Jesus was a lot closer to being black than white with blonde hair and blue eyes and that Cleopatra’s depiction in film exemplified racism in Hollywood. This isn’t the case at the average American school. Yet I was shocked at 25, when I realized that there was so much I didn’t understand. The “non violent” version of our history overshadows the great variety of thought and experience that existed. Stokely Carmichael exemplifies this to me. I never would’ve understood the complexity of thought that existed during this time if I hadn’t had the opportunity to watch him speak for the first time in this film.
4. Musical Influences:
A score produced by Questlove, Om’Mas, and Corey Smyth. I need not say anything else.
The film has current leaders, thinkers, and artists comment on the footage that they’ve seen for the first time. Some of them are reflecting on their own lives, through the lens of time. Others, like Erykah Badu, are talking about that which has influenced them and their art. It’s just a genius way to examine the footage and puts the present day into perspective. After all, there is no present without a past.
6. My “Job” as a Documentary Filmmaker:
Suddenly, after seeing this film, I became connected to documentary filmmakers around the world in a way that I’d never thought of before. I began to see a correlation between the Swedish filmmakers then and people like Dana Buckley, Albert Vazquez and myself today. In the most journalistic sense, it’s our job to shed an “objective” light onto the things that are happening in the world around us. Documentation is important not only for the sake of current discussion, but also in a historical sense. We don’t know who our projects may influence and when. The possibilities are exponential. It’s important work.
For the documentary film’s perseverance.
For black stories being told through cinema.
8. Capturing the Seemingly Insignificant:
“Fly on the wall” is more than a concept in support of cinema verite style filmmaking. It is a position that is afforded to an outsider – the perspective that any doc-filmmaker should take regardless of how close they are to the subject matter. It can feel like an overwhelming task to try to capture the most important moments during a time when history is being made. Yet it’s the ordinary moments that are captured with the great leaders featured in the film that give us the most insight into who they were as people.
9. Black Power:
“Black is beautiful, but black isn’t power. Knowledge is power.” – Lewis Michaux
10. My Own Power:
This film made me prouder to be black and prouder to be a filmmaker. And made me recognize the power in the combination of the two – but only because it gave me knowledge.