Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song

Director: Melvin Van Peebles
Screenwriters: Melvin Van Peebles

Institute History


Rated X by an all-white jury screamed the tag line when Sweetback was released. Unlike anything in American cinema before or since, the film tells the story of a streetwise black stud who escapes from two cops by bludgeoning them with handcuffs. Forced to run for his life, Sweetback uses his extraordinary sexual abilities to slip and slide his way through the urban jungle.

The film was the first to recreate the Language and landscape of the ghetto, and, if its glorification of pimp as hero and woman as whore offended many middle-class blacks and whites, there were tens of thousands of people who responded to its energy and its affirmation of the individual within the community. Sweetback became one of the most financially successful independent films ever released in the United States. Its challenge to the corrupt white establishment echoed revolutionary voices of the late 19605 and its concluding message, "A ' baadassss nigger is coming back to collect some dues," seemed to reflect the feelings of many disenfranchised Americans.

Sunday, January 21,10:15 p.m.
Holiday Village Cinema I

Wednesday. January 24, 10:00 p.m.
Prospector Square Theatre


— Betsy McLane

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]