Going in to The Black Power Mixtape hopes were high. Sight & Sound magazine had just revealed that it was to be their “Film Of The month” and the intriguing premise, well, intrigued. For those unfamiliar, Black Power Mix Tape is a Swedish documentary film, constructed from footage of the American civil rights movement captured by Swedish journalists. This notion of an alien group bearing witness to one of the defining periods of the 20th century looked set to offer a unique spin on a well covered area, and while the film itself is hugely admirable, one couldn’t help but feel as though the film is too ambitious for its own good.
Covering the period between 1967 and 1975, The Black Power Mixtape simply tries to project too much information to its audience. The early portion of the film works best. Figures such as Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davies and their stories were born for the big screen, yet, and this is no doubt the filmmakers intention, their stories are but two of many, and the overarching picture essentially swamps them. Shocking footage of later-period black injustices, with sights such as new born babies being wheened off of heroin thanks to addicted mother giving birth are wholly effective, but feel like they are part of a different movie entirely.
Much of the film was shot on 16mm film, and looks beautiful. Contemporary figures of black culture such as Talib Kweli and Erykah Badu join their cultural predecessors in narrating the work, reminding that issues of civil rights are an ongoing event.