“The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975” is a gripping documentary on the struggles of the civil rights movement narrated by black activists Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis as well as contemporary artists who were inspired by them like Talib Kweli and Erykah Badu.
But what makes the documentary even more fascinating is its back story. Swedish director Goran Hugo Olsson stumbled upon a trove of unseen 40-year-old footage shot by Swedish reporters across 20 different channels. What he found was intimate conversations of Davis in prison, candid moments between Carmichael and his mother and powerful voices from all walks of life fighting and reflecting on freedom.
So why would Swedes be interested in America’s civil rights movement? Normally-neutral Sweden had taken a stance against the Vietnam War and Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King Jr. had linked racism, poverty and militarism “the triplets of social misery.”
The footage threads critical years of the Black Power movement. From the peak of the civil rights movement to the degradation of black societies due to narcotics. It’s so intimate, one can smell the changing scents of the ghetto. The videography is cinematic-close and raw, much like the musical score that provides continuity throughout the chapters.The documentary leaves the audience with a wider sense of humanity, for the struggle of African Americans and the stark realization that the ideas of these ‘freedom thinkers’ are still relevant. This documentary is a critical piece of the puzzle in completing the picture of the civil rights movement. A movement which is not unlike the uprisings we see globally today. We see that the language used in the fight for human rights is the same, despite our differences.
By Shivika & Shreeya Sinha