Sweet Sweetbacks Badasssss! Song at FACT, Liverpool

Posted on 15 October 2013
By Michelle Gondry
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Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss! Song – credited as the being the original Blaxploitation film – is kicking off the Mark Boulos film programme at FACT this week.

Created by Melvin Van Peebles, the film is violent, explicit, shocking but at times hilarious, and is dedicated to ‘all the Brothers and Sisters who had enough of the Man’.

It follows Sweetback in his attempts to escape across the Mexican border after being arrested for a crime he didn’t commit.

Because of it’s subject matter, no major American studio would finance the film so Van Peebles used his own savings and a loan of $50,000 from comedy legend Bill Cosby.

He is quoted as saying “Cosby didn’t want an equity part, he just wanted his money back.”

The film didn’t use any officially licensed crew members because of the absence of studio funding.

This put them all in such danger that everyone working on the film had to carry a gun at all times.

Carrying the weapons proved useful when some of the film’s extras threatened to leave before they were finished for the day.

The gang turned out to be part of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Gang, but Van Peebles snapped his fingers and the entire crew pulled out their rifles, forcing the bikers change their minds immediately.

Originally opening at just two American cinemas, it proved itself incredibly popular with audiences straight away.

On the strength of the name alone, it expanded into more and more theatres, going on to earn over $15m at the Box Office.

Mark Boulos, the artist behind one of FACT’s current exhibitions, chose to screen the film as part of the public programme because of its influence on his filmic style and its ground-breaking political resonance.

Dr Eithne Quinn, Programme Director and Senior Lecturer in American Studies at the University of Manchester, will introduce the screening and discuss its legacy and unique place in cinema history.