While partly ignored or demonized by mainstream American news outlets and politicians, the American Black Power movement received a sympathetic ear from an unlikely source: white Swedes. The doc The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is comprised entirely of news items filed by Swedish journalists, who spent the titular years obsessed with the civil rights battles on the other side of the ocean.
Their cameras capture highlights from the Black Power timeline. Stokely Carmichael delivers speeches whose fiery content is made even more potent by his calm, cool delivery. Journos hang with Angela Davis in her jail cell as she responds to criticisms of violence by talking about knowing the four little girls killed in the 16th St. Baptist Church burning in Birmingham, Ala. By film’s end, the proliferation of drugs in black communities has created another nest of problems, combated by rising star Louis Farrakhan.
The showcasing of clips you’ve likely never seen before is enough reason to embrace The Black Power Mixtape , particularly since they represent a form of journalism that’s positively alien. The journalists allow their subjects to speak at length, letting ideas run long and develop complexity. That’s to say nothing of mainstream mediamakers lending a sympathetic ear to minority activists during a time of high civil unrest.
The wares the Black Power Movement offer are more than mere novelty, and yet all the doc amounts to is a quickie history lesson from a class you’ve already taken. Despite the inclusion of modern commentators on the soundtrack—including ?uestlove, Talib Kweli, Danny Glover and Erykah Badu—any modern-day relevance is strictly superficial. Moreover, Diretor Göran Olsson never once examines what drew Swedish journos at the time to African-American plight. This is less a film than a compilation, and one that cries out for someone willing to probe even deeper.