BaadAsssss Cinema (2002)

DVD Cover (Docurama)
Genres: Biography (Non-Fiction), Blaxploitation, Film & Television History, Race & Ethnicity
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Isaac Julien Isaac Julien
Pam Grier Pam Grier
Fred Williamson Fred Williamson
Melvin Van Peebles Melvin Van Peebles
Elvis Mitchell Elvis Mitchell
Gloria Hendry Gloria Hendry

6.9 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: June 16, 2007
I love some good blaxploitation fare, and although I have a pretty good idea of how the genre came to be and who the key players were, I'm far from being an expert on the subject. I got a suggestion for this title a couple of weeks ago, and it came with the claim that this film would "open my eyes to all sorts of things that I didn't know." Well, that statement was pretty much right on the money - I did learn a lot of things that I was unaware of, and I also found out about a couple of movies that will immediately be hitting my Netflix queue.

Using the traditional documentary style of combining talking-head interviews with clips from some of the classics, Baadasssss Cinema takes a look back at the political climate of the early seventies and how it paved the way for what was then known as "black exploitation" (shortened in today's world as "blaxploitation"). Although a couple of key issues are glossed over or ignored completely, the film for the most part does a great job of introducing today's audiences to the world of blaxploitation fare. What was the first major film, who were some of the biggest stars, how did these films help Hollywood out of a financial rut, and what impact does it have even on today's films are but a few of the subjects that arise, and the interviews come to us courtesy of such names as Pam Grier (Foxy Brown, Jackie Brown), Gloria Hendry (Black Caesar, Hell Up in Harlem), Samuel L. Jackson (Jackie Brown), Melvin Van Peebles (Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song), Fred Williamson (Black Caesar, Boss Nigger), Afeni Shakur (mother of the late Tupac), Larry Cohen, and Mr. Blaxploitation Star himself, Quentin Tarantino.

As mentioned, the documentary does a great job of detailing the history of the genre in an intelligent way. Hearing from the people who made these movies happen was an obvious treat, and each of them were well-spoken, insightful, and obviously happy to be a part of this documentary. My only real complaints about the people who spoke on the subject was the lack of Richard Roundtree (Shaft) and the inclusion of both Mrs. Shakur and Quentin Tarantino. Shakur was the least of my concerns, as in one part she spoke about how her son grew up watching these films and alluded to the fact that they may have inspired his rap career (the big picture of this, of course, is that blaxploitation played a part in inspiring "gangsta rap" - but this topic is avoided). I had no problems with that piece aside from wishing that the people responsible for the documentary had delved into the rap topic just a little more, but I did have a problem with her popping up time and time again to weigh in on other subjects. No disrespect intended to her, but she wasn't exactly a key figure in the topic at hand, so why not allot this time to the other, more important people instead?

Quentin Tarantino also showed up for a nice chunk of time, and although I love the man's work and understand the Jackie Brown / blaxploitation connection, he still seemed quite out of place here. It's obvious that the man loves blaxploitation fare, but then again, so do I... and I definitely don't think that I would have added a whole lot to this other than "Yeah, that was a good movie." That's pretty much what Tarantino does during his time, save for his claims that the violence and the consistent "evil white cop" characters were a result not of the racial tension and violence of the time, but instead, simply due to the crime genre that they were a part of.

With all that said, these were both minor complaints and didn't detract from my enjoyment of the presentation. The information is presented in both an entertaining and informing fashion, so even if you think that you know all there is to know about the genre, it's still fun to watch as a stroll down memory lane. 8/10.
Tristan #1: Tristan - added 06/16/2007, 05:47 PM
You know what's awesome? Pam's uneven breasts.
Chad #2: Chad - added 06/16/2007, 06:20 PM
Thou shalt not disrespect anyone on my "major hotties" list... and Grier ranks up there in the top ten.
Tristan #3: Tristan - added 06/16/2007, 06:21 PM
Don't even deny it though.
Chad #4: Chad - added 06/16/2007, 06:25 PM
I never even noticed that until you said something. Fucker.
Tristan #5: Tristan - added 06/16/2007, 06:59 PM
She's nice but, wow.
Looks like she got one stuck in a bike chain.
Chad #6: Chad - added 06/17/2007, 12:44 AM
I've seen her whip them out in four or five different movies now, and I never noticed it on screen. I saw some unflattering pictures when I was - ahem - about to deny it, so I'm thinking they're bad shots. Yeah, that's it.
Tristan #7: Tristan - added 06/17/2007, 06:22 AM
Hmmm, yes, yes.
Lighting was off, and they were unflattering angles.
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