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The year was 1971 and the hot ticket at the box office was THE FRENCH CONNECTION. Little did audiences and the film industry know that in the same year the birth of a new era was about to explode: Independent Black Cinema. The city was Detroit, and a weathered Melvin Van Peebles sat alone in the Grand Circus theatre watching only a few ticket buyers enter where his new film - his follow up to the successful comedy WATERMELON MAN - was about to play. After months of clawing, scheming and fighting to finish the film he wanted to make, the moment had arrived, and in a virtually empty theatre, Melvin sat with just a few curious onlookers. By the end of the screening, Melvin was alone. No one could have predicted what happened after that momentous end would be the beginning of history.

Melvin Van Peebles stunned the world for the first time with his debut feature THE STORY OF A THREE-DAY PASS. Filmed in France and selected as the French entry in the San Francisco Film Festival, Melvin’s film was awarded the top prize. Saying it was controversial would be an understatement. In 1968, for a black man to walk up to the podium and accept the top festival award for a film he had to go abroad to make – now that’s how you make your mark. After his comedy WATERMELON MAN, Melvin was determined to push the Hollywood boundaries with the groundbreaking, and even more controversial, SWEET SWEETBACK’S BAADASSSSS SONG. Turned down by every major studio including Columbia, where he had a three-picture deal, Melvin was forced to basically self-finance. Risking everything he had, Melvin delivered to the world the first Black Ghetto hero on the big screen, whether they were ready or not!

More than 30 years later, history is being fashioned again. Mario Van Peebles, Melvin’s son, directs an honest and revealing portrait of his pioneering father. Following in his dad’s footsteps, and documenting his exceptional journey towards political defiance through cinema, Mario directs and stars as Melvin in BAADASSSSS!, based on the book Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song written by his father right after making SWEETBACK. The book went onto become a best seller, has been translated into several languages and is now a standard in university film classes.

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