October is "Doctober" at The Belcourt, and tonight Scene contributor Ron Wynn leads a panel discussion of one of the month-long documentary festival's most talked-about films, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975. Joining Wynn after the 7 p.m. show will be Janice Malone, Tennessee Tribune writer and host of Film Festival Radio; and Michael L. Walker, playwright and founder of Dream 7 Theatre Productions.
When the fiery activist Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture) popularized the term "black power" in a 1966 speech, his words were widely seen as a rejection of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his advocacy of nonviolence. Carmichael, then head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), didn't invent or create the term. He was just the latest in a long line of thinkers who considered integration and assimilation dead-end strategies that could never gain blacks real freedom. As SNCC and organizations like The Black Panthers took stances distancing them from such groups as the NAACP, the reaction from mainstream American society grew more hostile and fearful. Likewise, media access and coverage became sporadic and limited.
These realities make Göran Olsson's powerful new documentary The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 a treasure. It's a collection of insights, reflections and commentary culled from interviews gathered by various Swedish journalists for nearly a decade. They came to America determined to discover what was really brewing in the streets. Amazingly, most of this footage sat largely unviewed for more than three decades in a Swedish public TV station's basement.
Lovingly assembled into a fluid documentary (Danny Glover served as a co-producer), the film takes younger viewers back to an era whose militant language and pessimistic attitudes may shock those who've only seen the '60s and '70s through the prism of Eyes on the Prize. Others who remember the time will revel in seeing the period presented without filter or censorship.