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Back in 1971, Melvin Van Peebles wrote, produced, directed and starred in Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, an X-rated cheapie that hit box-office pay dirt by capturing the rage African-American audiences felt toward the white establishment. The film became the black Easy Rider and sparked the blaxploitation era in the 1970s, movies made by blacks for blacks. Now Melvin’s son, Mario Van Peebles (Ali, Panther), has lifted a chunk from his father’s memoirs and reconstructed the making of that seminal film by directing, co-writing and starring — quite credibly — as Melvin in Baadasssss! The son doesn’t flinch from his dad’s faults, right down to Melvin casting a thirteen-year-old Mario as a boy getting his first taste of sex in a whorehouse. The film is technically raw, but the sight of Van Peebles playing his father at a defining moment in movie history exerts a potent fascination.

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