Institute History

  • 2004 Sundance Film Festival


The premiere of Melvin Van Peebles's groundbreaking 1971 film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, was a defining moment in African American cinema. Bold and controversial in both content and production process, Van Peebles's third feature film marked the debut performance of his 13-year-old son, Mario. Thirty-three years later, Mario himself gives us BAADASSSSS!, arguably his best directorial effort to date. A heartfelt and incredibly resonant ode to his father's achievement, Mario's film relives the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the making of Melvin's pioneering effort.

Literally stepping into his father's shoes, Mario plays the lead role of his father as he tries to make Sweetback. Both reverent and critical, the film shines a revealing light on what it took to make the film, from producing it under the guise of black porno to the ragtag crew of hippies and wanna-bes that got it made, to the run-ins with the law, to the physical and emotional toll it took on Melvin, leaving him nearly blind, broke, and estranged from his own family. This remarkable story is a passionate tribute not only to black film but also to the energy and creative fire of independent filmmaking.

— Shari Frilot

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]