The Son Also Rises

Hollywood sends us a bouquet of inspirational films annually, yet I suspect the movie industry reeks of withered dreams. What are the odds of a regular Joe making it in Hollywood? What’s his chance if he’s a man of color… and is sent three decades back in time? Well, the likelihood is good, if he’s a persistent and crazy [maternal expletive] like Melvin Van Peebles, the ground-breaking black director of the 1970s and the subject of the film “Baadasssss!”

If you’re the kind who relishes “The Making Of” featurettes in your DVDs, this one is a must-see. We see the spectacular journey of Van Peebles’ film “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” from the germination of its story ideas to the first audience screening. There are hurdles in almost all matters: finance, casting, crew, family, production, publicity, and profit. At the center of the storm is the obstinate Melvin (played with a likable intensity by his son Mario), who puts everything on the line, including his family. His dedication to the film is both frightening and admirable, but is also telling of filmmaking’s very harsh conditions. It’s quite bold for Mario Van Peebles, who wrote and directed the film, to portray his father in a harsh light. But in the end, “Baadasssss!” becomes a loving tribute to someone who may not have the best father, but was “the man” for all budding indie directors. I highly recommend it. “Baadasssss!” is reeeeallly goooood!

Grade: A+

Mario Van Peebles, Joy Bryant, David Alan Grier
Written and directed by
Mario Van Peebles
Rated R for pervasive language and some strong sexuality