Since we didn’t have a feature documentary to watch this week, and because I finally watched this film today, I thought I would share The Black Power Mixtape (1967-1975). It is actually a nice film to add to the mix of the documentaries we have already seen because it has a bit of a new angle that we haven’t quite seen yet. While fitting in somewhere with the Fog of War and When We Were Kings because it relies on current day interviews and archival footage, this film brings a new dimension in the way that it employs those assets. It takes a film or a series of TV news segments and repurposes them. This might always be the case with archival footage, but in the Black Power Mixtape it feels like something new. Maybe it is due to the perspective of the film.
The interesting part about the movie is that the original perspective of the footage that is used is from the Swedish TV reporters, but in it’s current form it feels that the perspective is given back to those who were either filmed in the 1960’s and 1970’s, or were directly affected by the movements that were happening throughout those decades. Viewers are given the original intent by the Swedish TV reporters with the added layer of the interviews with the participants and current black leaders who give their perspective about what was going on, and how they felt about the interview and the movements that were happening. The original film was from an outsider, both racially and nationally. In the new version, the insiders get to see this outsider perspective and make comments about it. These new interviews speak directly to the footage and not just in general which gives the film a certain intimacy rather than leaving it in some broad realm of History. It is possible that this intimacy was achieved in the original film segments though, and that the interviews aren’t what create this. I am still trying to figure out exactly how the interviews and the archival footage work together. I thought of it one way, but then read a review that made me question it. In the review A.O. Scott said, “Their words sometimes deepen the viewer’s appreciation of what is on screen, though at other times the nuances and contradictions of the past outstrip the didacticism of the commentary. But the fact that the speakers’ faces are never seen produces a feeling of estrangement that is crucial to the film’s effectiveness. You become acutely aware of gaps and discontinuities: between slogans and realities, between political ideals and stubborn social problems, between then and now.” I guess I felt like the estrangement that he mentioned was accurate, and yet I still felt a closeness.