It tends to be that in the world of popular entertainment, those responsible for the beginning of a significant change somehow become swallowed up. Sure, we hear their names mentioned and occasional references made, but due to the over-saturation of "art," we rarely are able to fully understand or appreciate what proved most influential.
I'd heard of Mario Van Peebles (the lead, writer and director of "Baadasssss!") considerably more so than his father. Melvin Van Peebles (Mario's father) essentially sparked off the independent film revolution and the Blaxploitation genre through his movie "Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song." A completely independent X-rated endeavour which grossed around $15 million in 1971 (something quite unheard of for a non-studio production).
"Baadassss!" is Mario's adaptation of his father's book based on the tribulations and reasoning surrounding the setup of his groundbreaking film. "Baadasssss!" sees Mario playing his father, with another actor playing a younger version of him.
The story/reality see's Melvin being courted by Columbia for a three-picture deal, to keep his name strong, Melvin seeks out to create an original piece of entertainment revolving around a black lead who betrays the white racist authorities and succeeds in surviving in the end. Peebles seeks out a fifty percent minority crew and tries to make his film despite many an obstacle.
Films about films aren't anything new. "State & Main" tried it from a Hollywood perspective and Terry Guilliam showed us how things can go wrong with "Lost In La Mancha." But, Mario shows his father's efforts and lifestyle in such a determined and compelling manner that we can't help but root for his success. Mario even includes "testimonials" by the actors (whose characters actually exist) to help reality resonate while still mixing the fictional aspects of it being a movie.
"Baadasssss!" is very interesting and enjoyable. Now I'm intrigued to find out where I can get my hands on a copy of "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song." A film like this is not only worth watching for the entertainment value, but also to educate us as to how independent cinema arose.
As for the DVD - the extras are sufficient. It isn't overloaded with additional content, but there are interviews with the cast and some of the original crew as well as premiere coverage and a one on one interview with Melvin. Commentaries with Mario and Melvin also accompany the movie as an alternate audio track.