The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 Movie Poster Image
Docu about Black Power movement; language, violence.
  • NR
  • 2011
  • 100 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

"America is a dumb puppy with big teeth that bite and hurt." "There wouldn't be an America if it wasn't for Black People." "Black is beautiful but Black isn't power. Knowledge is power."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Numerous Black leaders help organize at the community level to provide meals for kids who need them, to improve Black lives, and to bring attention to bias and unfairness by taking control of their own destinies rather than by waiting for others in power to grant them freedoms and opportunities.

Violence

Black citizens are beaten, bombed, shot, and gassed in some cases by white citizens, in some cases by police officers. Police brutality is cited often. Inhuman treatment of a largely Black prison population is described. Black youths die in high numbers of illegal drug overdoses. Many believe the drugs were circulated in Black neighborhoods by the U.S. government to suppress and neutralize popular Black organizations speaking out against racism. It's suggested that many Black people in prison were and are "political" prisoners, incarcerated to keep them from organizing anti-racist rebellions. The FBI kept tabs on Black citizens they believed were fighting racism. The movie references assassinations of presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, civil rights organizer Medgar Evers, activist Malcolm X, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and other Black or anti-racist leaders. Black Power leaders argue that since Black people are often violently attacked, they should arm themselves in self defense. In footage from the Vietnam War, an American soldier is seen repeatedly kicking an Asian man lying on the ground. A woman recalls her friend's daughter was killed in an infamous Alabama Black church bombing. An emergency room doctor laments the high number of Black youths who come to the ER with overdoses. As EMT workers move the body of an overdose victim onto a gurney, someone off camera says, "One less, eh?" Police officers are called "pigs."

Sex
Language

"F--k," "s--t," "pigs," "negroes," the "N" word, and "fornication."  

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some soldiers who served in Vietnam returned addicted to drugs. Some who were Black returned to their homes and, according to the film, spread the use of drugs in their neighborhoods. It's said that U.S. government policies directed by the president and the head of the FBI distributed drugs in Black neighborhoods to break the momentum of a rising Black power revolutionary militant movement. Decades later, others say that crack cocaine was introduced into Black neighborhoods also to keep black people from competing, achieving success, and claiming their rights. Adults smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is a compilation of archival footage recorded by Swedish journalists and filmmakers 45 years ago and refashioned into a documentary in 2011 by Swedish filmmaker Goran Olsson. The result is an educational look at racism in America and the Black power movement that sought to fight it at the time, featuring various players and events. In the fairly random overview, the transition from a civil rights movement of peaceful resistance to a more militant stance advocated by a younger generation of leaders is highlighted, as are police brutality, drug problems in the Black community (possibly deliberately caused by Nixon administration policies designed to neutralize civil rights organizing), and the role anti-Vietnam war protests played in bringing people to the streets. Court cases against dissidents are explored as is brutality in prisons. Language includes "f--k" and "s--t," and drug addiction and the destruction it causes are discussed. Police are shown clubbing, shooting, and gassing protesters. The terms "negroes" and the "N" word are used. As EMT workers move the body of an overdose victim onto a gurney, someone off camera says, "One less, eh?" Adults smoke cigarettes.

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What's the story?

THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1967 - 1975 uses archival footage shot by Swedish news and documentary crews to sketch some highlights of a Black Power movement that sought to right wrongs imposed on Black Americans since slavery. The result is by no means a comprehensive history of events, but highlights include introductions to such effective and charismatic leaders as Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, and Huey Newton. They represented a move for younger Black leaders away from the peaceful protest advocated by Martin Luther King Jr. (who was assassinated during the designated years) to a more aggressive one. For non-violence to work, "Your opponent must have a conscience," Stokely Carmichael posits. Angela Davis points out that the Black Power movement wasn't by nature violent, but rather a logical response to all the violence levied against Black people for hundreds of years in America. She recounts being stopped by police often simply because she wore her hair in a natural way, which she says suggested to authorities that she was radical and dangerous. Malcolm X notes that Black people are shot and jailed and lynched, but if a "Black man tries to defend himself, he's considered an extremist."

Is it any good?

The Black Power Mixtape 1967 -1975 is a valuable piece of history most suitable for showing in college classes to stimulate further exploration and discussion. It offers a useful historical record through images of and interviews about racism dating back to the 1960s, and the issues sadly echo many of the same social issues facing the United States and other countries today, underscoring a disappointing lack of progress in the equalizing of opportunity for all races.

This doesn't claim to be a comprehensive history of Black Power, but overall there doesn't seem to be much of a unifying theme through which many important points are made. The years presented are targeted because those are the years the Swedish camera crew recorded their images. This fact, although a practical limitation, also seems limiting as an organizing principle if the goal is to present a larger picture of the time. The alert at the film's start that it represents only the view of this Swedish crew isn't a really sufficient disclaimer when the rest of the film is presented without comment. And given Sweden's own real racism problems of the past and present, the movie would make more sense and be even more powerful if this riveting footage had been mixed with footage by other crews from other countries for a wider look at racism, Black militancy, U.S. government retaliation, addiction, prison reform, police brutality, and other social and political ills. One critic aptly called it a "deficient history lesson" when it came out in 2011, and for that reason it would make a great starting point for a college class to delve deeper into the important historical moments and figures this film only touches on. This piece is a great start, leaving us with a yearning for more on the important subjects raised here.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether the era depicted in these clips parallel protests and concerns about racism in America today. How have conditions for people of color changed since the 1970s? How have the remained the same?

  • Why did Black Panther leaders of the 1970s say they were advocating arming Black people? What examples of violence against Black people did they cite as justification?

  • Why do you think systemic racism continues so many years after slavery was legally ended? What are some ways young people can make the playing field more level for all?

Movie details

  • In theaters: April 1, 2011
  • On DVD or streaming: December 13, 2011
  • Director: Goran Olsson
  • Studio: Netflix
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Run time: 100 minutes
  • MPAA rating: NR
  • Last updated: July 14, 2020

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