1. Van Peebles, Melvin Van, The Making of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (New York: Lancer Books, 1971 [1972]), 14. [return to page 1]

2. Van Peebles, The Making, 14-15.

3. Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari, Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, [1975] 1986); Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, [1980] 1998); Deleuze, Gilles, Cinema 2: The Time-Image (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, [1985] 1989); Deleuze, Gilles, “One Less Manifesto,” in Mimesis, Masochism, and Mime: The Politics of Theatricality in Contemporary French Thought, ed. Timothy Murray (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997).

4. Deleuze, Towards a Minor, 17.

5. Bates, Courtney E.J., “Sweetback’s ‘Signifyin(g)’ Song: Mythmaking in Melvin Van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 24 (2007), 172. The mainstream in this citation refers to “white action and Western film narratives.”

6. Deleuze, Towards a Minor, 17.

7. Young, Cynthia, Soul Power: Culture, Radicalism, and the Making of a U.S. Third World Left (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), 6.

8. Dargis, Manohla and A.O. Scott, “Watching While White: How Movies Tackled Race in 2016,” The New York Times, January 5, 2017.

9. Rana, Aziz, “Colonialism and Constitutional Memory,” U.C. Irvine Law Review, Vol. 5, Iss. 2 (2015), 268.

10. Creedal politics here refers to an insistence on the framing of the United States as free and equal from its founding, in line with its constitution, which obfuscates contemporary structural inequalities.

11. Young, Soul Power, 3.

12. For example: Killer of Sheep (1977), Daughters of the Dust (1991), Paris is Burning (1990). All significant films representing marginal communities in the United States, though perhaps not with such an aggressive politics as Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.

13. Van Peebles, The Making, 12.

14. Van Peebles, Melvin, “Lights, Camera, and the Black Role in Movies,” Ebony, November (2005), 96.

15. Van Peebles, The Making, 15.

16. Through Sidney Poitier’s oeuvre, for example.

17. Aziz, Rana, The Two Face of American Freedom (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010), 13.

18. This framing was part of the larger discourse surrounding black power. Rana, “Colonialism and Constitutional Memory,” 282.

19. Lipset, Seymour Martin, The First New Nation (New York: Basic Books, Inc. 1963), 2.

20. Lipset, The First New, 15.

21. Rana, Aziz, “Race and the American Creed: Recovering Black Radicalism,” N+1 Magazine, issue 24 (2016): https://nplusonemag.com/issue-24/politics/race-and-the-american-creed/

22. Newton provided his own revolutionary analysis of the film: “He Won’t Bleed Me: A Revolutionary Analysis of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” in To Die for the People: The Writings of Huey P. Newton (New York: Random House 1972), 112-147.

23. Donalson, Melvin, Black Directors in Hollywood (Austin: University of Texas Press 2003), 3. [return to page 2]

24. Van Peebles, “Lights, Camera,” 94.

25. Van Peebles, “Lights, Camera,” 92.

26. Getino, Fernando and Octavio Getino, “Towards a Third Cinema: Notes and Experiences for the Development of a Cinema of Liberation in the Third World,” in New Latin American Cinema, ed. Michael T. Martin(Detroit: Wayne State University Press 1997), 42-43.

27. Getino, “Towards a Third,” 42.

28. Getino, “Towards a Third,” 54.

29. Getino, “Towards a Third,” 42 – thought perhaps least so in Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, with its taciturn protagonist, but this is also the film most closely aligned with third cinema. Nonetheless, the film provides Sweetback’s history as a way of explaining his subject-position, and details the process of his becoming-political.

30. Gabara, Rachel, “Abderrahmane Sissako: Second and Third Cinema in the First Person,” in Global Art Cinema: New Theories and Histories, eds. Rosalind Galt and Karl Schoonover (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2010), 321.

31. Holtmeier, Matthew, Contemporary Political Cinema (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 2019), 80.

32. Comolli, Jean-Luc and Paul Narboni, “Cinema/Ideology/Criticism,” in Cahiers du Cinéma: Volume 3, 1969-1972 The Politics of Representation, ed. Nick Browne (London: Routledge 1996 [1990]), 58-67.

33. Comolli, “Cinema/Ideology/Criticism,” 60.

34. Comolli, “Cinema/Ideology/Criticism,” 62.

35. Comolli, “Cinema/Ideology/Criticism,” 62-63.

36. Comolli, “Cinema/Ideology/Criticism,” 62.

37. Gerhardt, Christina and Sara Saljoughi, 1968 and Global Cinema (Detroit: Wayne State University Press 2018), 2, 7.

38. Graham, Peter, “New Directions in French Cinema,” in The Oxford History of World Cinema, ed. Geoffrey Nowell-Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 576. [return to page 3]

39. Un Ours pour le F.B.I. (1964), Un Américain en enfer (1965), Le Chinois du XIV (1966), La Fête à Harlem (1967), and La Permission (1967).

40. Johnson brought an international component to the San Francisco Film Festival, would later go on to help establish the Oakland Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame (which inducted van Peebles), and later would teach African American and Third World film at Berkeley, a locus of many of the issues discussed in this article. For a brief list of his many accolades, see: “Remembering Albert Johnson: Black Scholar, Critic, and Academician” by John Williams in The Black Scholar, Spring 2003, 33.

41. My colloquialism here refers to the establishment of van Peebles legend through his own autobiographical account in The Making of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, as well as his son Mario van Peebles’ later retelling in the film Baadasssss! (2003). He recounts other aspects of this story in many interviews, which add to the legend as well.

42. Van Peebles, The Making, 68.

43. Wayne, Mike, Political Film: The Dialectics of Third Cinema, (London: Pluto Press, 2001), 23.

44. Van Peebles, The Making, 14.

45. Van Peebles, The Making, 12.

46. “Towards a Third Cinema” by Solanas and Getino, “For an Imperfect Cinema” by Espinosa, and “An Aesthetic of Hunger” by Rocha.

47. Rana, “Colonialism and Constitutional Memory,” 284. Further citation in Heath, Louis G., Off the Pigs! The History and Literature of the Black Panther Party (Metuchen: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. 1976), 249.

48. Van Peebles, The Making, 12.

49. Fanon, Frantz, Black Skin, White Masks (New York: Grove Press, 2008 [1958]), 257-258.

50. Van Peebles is referred to as “Head Nitwit in Charge” in part of the musical credits.

51. Gates, Racquel, “Subverting Hollywood from the Inside Out: Melvin van Peebles’s Watermelon Man,” Film Quarterly, vol. 68, No. 1 (2014), 13. [return to page 4]

52. Van Peebles, The Making, 45.

53. Gates, “Subverting Hollywood,” 9.

54. Gates, “Subverting Hollywood,” 12. Bracketed numbers are my addition.

55. Gates, “Subverting Hollywood,” 20.

56. Peebles comments on the use of his song in Thirteen, a New York based public media company: http://www.thirteen.org/metrofocus/2012/02/melvin-van-peebles-love-thats-occupy-wall-street/

57. Rausch, Andrew, Reflections on Blaxploitation: Actors and Directors Speak (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, 2009), 150. [return to page 5]

58. Van Peebles, The Making, 14-15.

59. Newton, Huey P., “He Won’t Bleed Me: A Revolutionary Analysis of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” in To Die for the People: The Writings of Huey P. Newton (New York: Random House, 1972), 120.

60. Rana, The Two Faces, 13.

61. Rana, “Colonialism and Constitutional Memory,” 287.

62. Siomopoulos, Anna, “The Birth of Black Cinema: Race, Reception, and Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates,Moving Image Vol 4, No 2 (2006), 112; 117.

63. Van Peebles, The Making,  171; 173; 180-181.

64. Newton, “He Won’t Bleed Me,” 146

65. See Lerone Bennett Jr’s reponse: “The Emancipation Orgasm: Sweetback in Wonderland,” Ebony, Vol 26, No. 1 (1971), 107.

66. Deleuze, Towards a Minor, 17.

67. See the interview in Reflections on Blaxploitation, cited previously. Peebles has little to say about Blaxploitation itself: Rausch, Andrew. Reflections on Blaxploitation: Actors and Directors Speak, (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press 2009).