Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song
The hero of this 1971 movie starts off a preteen street kid hungrily devouring a plate of food in a whorehouse kitchen, surrounded by the sympathetic prostitutes. One, in particular, takes him to her room for sex, and while the disturbingly emotionless boy is on top of her, she tells him he has a "sweet, sweet back"--and the nickname sticks for life. Jump several years into the future, and Sweetback (writer/director/force of nature Melvin Van Peebles) earns a reputation as a talented live-sex performer in the brothel, but Beetle (Simon Chuckster), the joint's shifty-eyed proprietor, makes a deal with some shady cops that puts Sweetback in peril. In custody, Sweetback witnesses police roughing up a young black man and rushes to his defense, handcuff-beating the crooked cops bloody. Suddenly Sweetback is on the lam, and the movie follows him from hideout to hideout, confounding unscrupulous law-enforcement types. Van Peebles' controversial movie--rated X back in the day--is credited as the first blaxploitation flick, a genre designed to tap into African-American audiences by featuring militant black characters fighting white authority. Sweetback, though, was an independent effort: Van Peebles made it on a $50,000 budget without production or distribution help from studios--the auteur had less interest in exploiting the black community than in making a movie about "a brother getting the man's foot out of his ass."