Blaxsploitation movies - What was the first?

pointmanpointman 1,042 Posts
edited October 2006 in Strut Central
So the other day I was watching some documentary with Melvin Van Peebles. He claimed that his 1971 movie Sweet Sweetback's baadasssss song was the very first Blaxsploitation movie made. Now I don't know if that is really true or not. It did make me wonder though what else possibly came out before it? What do you think the first Blaxsploitation movie is then? What others are some of the first? The other thing this made me wonder is just like everything else there had to be some sort of precursor to Blaxsploitation, what movies out there paved the way for the first Blaxsploitation movies?

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  • GuzzoGuzzo 8,611 Posts
    So the other day I was watching some documentary with Melvin Van Peebles. He claimed that his 1971 movie Sweet Sweetback's baadasssss song was the very first Blaxsploitation movie made. Now I don't know if that is really true or not. It did make me wonder though what else possibly came out before it? What do you think the first Blaxsploitation movie is then? What others are some of the first?

    The other thing this made me wonder is just like everything else there had to be some sort of precursor to Blaxsploitation, what movies out there paved the way for the first Blaxsploitation movies?

    MVP's claims are pretty much right.

    Sweetback is considered the first blaxploitation cause it was a film that had a black actor portraying a role in which he was fighting back against the man. Prior to this roles for black people tended to be more in the subservient areas. Even Sidney Poitier was considered an accomidating actor never really "forgetting his palce".

    Sweetback was a whole different perspective than prior films It's uniqueness made it incredibly popular amongst black film goers. After its financial success studios picked up on the phenomenon and started shooting black films left and right, hence the blaxploitation genre title

  • I read the subject line, and before clicking the link to read the posts I thought of Sweetback. It seems generally agreed upon that it was the first blaxploitation film.

    When I was in college I took some film classes, one had a book that's worth reading: "Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, & Bucks" by Donald Bogle. It discusses various stereotypes throughout the history of film.

  • OkemOkem 4,617 Posts
    You should check Badass 'How to Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass' by Mario V.P. its pretty interesting. And definately goes into the fact that this was the first, and before this, there were no black made movies, for a black audience.
    There were of coarse, occasional movies that stared African Americans before this. But none that were aimed at a black audience, and were about black people/experiences. Lots covered the issue of race etc but they were always aimed at a white audience.
    Maybe you could consider something like George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) a kinda precurser, on the count of it being lowbudget, exploitasional, having a black protagonist, and running in the same theatres, but not really.

  • SoulOnIceSoulOnIce 13,027 Posts
    the fact that this was the first, and before this, there were no black made movies, for a black audience.
    There were of coarse, occasional movies that stared African Americans before this. But none that were aimed at a black audience, and were about black people/experiences. Lots covered the issue of race etc but they were always aimed at a white audience.

    As discussed previously here on SS, this is in fact completely untrue.
    Films with all-black casts made specifically for black audiences by
    independent black filmmakers were being made throughout the history of film,
    as far back as the silent era.

    A good place to start learning would be with Oscar Micheaux

  • GuzzoGuzzo 8,611 Posts
    the fact that this was the first, and before this, there were no black made movies, for a black audience.
    There were of coarse, occasional movies that stared African Americans before this. But none that were aimed at a black audience, and were about black people/experiences. Lots covered the issue of race etc but they were always aimed at a white audience.

    As discussed previously here on SS, this is in fact completely untrue.
    Films with all-black casts made specifically for black audiences by
    independent black filmmakers were being made throughout the history of film,
    as far back as the silent era.

    A good place to start learning would be with Oscar Micheaux

    yes, SOI is coming correct black films were coming out as far back as the teens of the twentieth century. And even major studios were churning out black films that starred people like Lena Horne, Mantan Moreland, Steppin Fechitt, Butterfly McQueen, Bill Robinson, etc. These films were seldom "aimed at a white audience" and were seldom even showed at the same theaters; A segregationist vibe was very present in Hollywood.

    If were talking about the genre of blaxploitation we're talking Melvin Van Peebles, Gordon Parks, Gordon Parks Jr, Max Julien and so forth and a new empowered attitude shown by the black people in these films.

  • SoulOnIceSoulOnIce 13,027 Posts

    If were talking about the genre of blaxploitation we're talking Melvin Van Peebles, Gordon Parks, Gordon Parks Jr, Max Julien and so forth and a new empowered attitude shown by the black people in these films.

    Not to harp on Micheaux, but, his work truly is the
    first "blaxploitation" as far as independent black
    films made by and marketed directly to blacks, with
    themes relating directly to life in black america,
    and exploring themes important to blacks without
    regard for white "acceptance."

    From the article I linked, tell me this does not
    sound like Van Peebles, 50 years earlier:

    With his fifth movie, "Within Our Gates," Micheaux attacked the racism portrayed in the most highly acclaimed silent movie of all time, D.W. Griffith's masterpiece, "The Birth of a Nation." In his movie, Griffith depicted blacks as lazy alcoholics who raped white women. Micheaux turned the table on Griffith, filming a scene where a white man tries to rape a black woman, using exactly the same lighting, blocking, and setting as the black on white rape scene in "The Birth of a Nation." Unfortunately for Micheaux, "Within Our Gates" came out right after the race riots, which plagued America throughout the summer of 1919. Black and white officials feared further violence if "Within Our Gates" was shown and they forced Micheaux to edit out controversial scenes. Micheaux, however, turned around and booked other theatres to show the "uncut version" to even bigger audiences.

    I'm sorry, MVP was breaking ground and making artistic stands
    in the early 70's, without a doubt, but he was by no means
    the first - not by a long shot.

  • mannybolonemannybolone 15,030 Posts
    I hear where Soul On Ice is coming from but in terms of the common understanding of blaxploitation, then yeah, it'd be "Sweetback."

    Just to note, Melvin says that he should also be credited with inventing rap based on stuff he was doing on "Brer Soul" and while one could appreciate where he was coming from with that claim, in terms of what we've come to know of hip-hop, what he was doing may share similarities but that doesn't, per se, make it hip-hop. I think blaxploitation - the very term of it - has a very specific time and place regardless of the antecedents that may, in every other way, resemble it.

  • batmonbatmon 27,574 Posts
    Another factor in MVP game change was the employment of brothers and sisters behind the camera. Challenging the unions was just as game changing as the art itself. FUBU shit.

    Just rent this.

  • cpeetzcpeetz 2,112 Posts
    I've heard some make the case that "Putney Swope" (1969) was the 1st blaxploitation flick...
    The subject matter and tone certainly provide ammo for that argument.



    All debate aside, see this movie! If you haven't already.

  • pickwick33pickwick33 8,946 Posts
    I've heard some make the case that Up Tight[/b] (1969) was the 1st blaxploitation flick...
    The subject matter and tone certainly provide ammo for that argument.


  • rayray 77 Posts
    I've heard some make the case that "Putney Swope" (1969) was the 1st blaxploitation flick...
    The subject matter and tone certainly provide ammo for that argument.



    All debate aside, see this movie! If you haven't already.


    ...Great movie. Definitely predates Sweetback so I've always wondered why it doesn't get the same kind of attention...


    "Got-to-have-Soul!"

  • GuzzoGuzzo 8,611 Posts
    I've heard some make the case that "Putney Swope" (1969) was the 1st blaxploitation flick...
    The subject matter and tone certainly provide ammo for that argument.



    All debate aside, see this movie! If you haven't already.


    ...Great movie. Definitely predates Sweetback so I've always wondered why it doesn't get the same kind of attention...


    "Got-to-have-Soul!"

    Robert Downey Sr was a honkey

    So was Jules Dassin

  • rayray 77 Posts
    I've heard some make the case that "Putney Swope" (1969) was the 1st blaxploitation flick...
    The subject matter and tone certainly provide ammo for that argument.



    All debate aside, see this movie! If you haven't already.


    ...Great movie. Definitely predates Sweetback so I've always wondered why it doesn't get the same kind of attention...


    "Got-to-have-Soul!"

    Robert Downey Sr was a honkey

    So was Jules Dassin



    ...so were Larry Cohen, William Crain, Jack Hill, etc., etc.

    Do we cross all films with white directors off the list?
    Seems like that would significantly shorten the list....


  • batmonbatmon 27,574 Posts
    Do we cross all films with white directors off the list?
    Seems like that would significantly shorten the list....

    Yes. FUBU.

    Just cause its filmed w/ BlackFolks in the ghetto, Blaxploitation it aint.
    MVP had a mostly Black film crew, and the Black Hero sticks it to the MAN.
    Were these Caucasoid directors casting Brothers as revolutionaries before Sweetback?

  • rayray 77 Posts
    Do we cross all films with white directors off the list?
    Seems like that would significantly shorten the list....

    Yes. FUBU.

    Just cause its filmed w/ BlackFolks in the ghetto, Blaxploitation it aint.
    MVP had a mostly Black film crew, and the Black Hero sticks it to the MAN.
    Were these Caucasoid directors casting Brothers as revolutionaries before Sweetback?


    Have you actually seen Putney Swope?

  • batmonbatmon 27,574 Posts
    Do we cross all films with white directors off the list?
    Seems like that would significantly shorten the list....

    Yes. FUBU.

    Just cause its filmed w/ BlackFolks in the ghetto, Blaxploitation it aint.
    MVP had a mostly Black film crew, and the Black Hero sticks it to the MAN.
    Were these Caucasoid directors casting Brothers as revolutionaries before Sweetback?


    Have you actually seen Putney Swope?

    No,that's why I asked the Revolutionary question.

    FUBU.

  • Do we cross all films with white directors off the list?
    Seems like that would significantly shorten the list....

    Yes. FUBU.

    Just cause its filmed w/ BlackFolks in the ghetto, Blaxploitation it aint.
    MVP had a mostly Black film crew, and the Black Hero sticks it to the MAN.
    Were these Caucasoid directors casting Brothers as revolutionaries before Sweetback?


    Have you actually seen Putney Swope?

    No,that's why I asked the Revolutionary question.

    FUBU.

    Wouldn't the FUBU construct negate the sploitation[/b] part of the equation?

  • mordecaimordecai 2,204 Posts
    I've heard some make the case that "Putney Swope" (1969) was the 1st blaxploitation flick...
    The subject matter and tone certainly provide ammo for that argument.



    All debate aside, see this movie! If you haven't already.
    just saw this a couple weeks ago. yes, recommended. felt it dragged a little, but still lots of creative stuff happening all over the movie...

    Sweet Sweetback's Badassss Song was also very good IMO

  • batmonbatmon 27,574 Posts
    Wouldn't the FUBU construct negate the sploitation[/b] part of the equation?

    The industry saw what happened w/ Sweetback and followed suit. The term was coined post Sweetback.

  • rayray 77 Posts
    Do we cross all films with white directors off the list?
    Seems like that would significantly shorten the list....

    Yes. FUBU.

    Just cause its filmed w/ BlackFolks in the ghetto, Blaxploitation it aint.
    MVP had a mostly Black film crew, and the Black Hero sticks it to the MAN.
    Were these Caucasoid directors casting Brothers as revolutionaries before Sweetback?


    Have you actually seen Putney Swope?

    No,that's why I asked the Revolutionary question.

    FUBU.


    Putney is the "token black guy" at an ad agency. When the owner dies, the greedy white executives fight amongst each other and Putney finds himself in charge. He fires all the white people (keeping a "token white guy", of course) and hires a team of black militants. They decide to no longer make misleading commercials for big corporations, and Putney, renaming the company "Truth and Soul", refuses to be a part of selling poor black people a bunch of products they don't really need.
    Putney's new, honest method of advertising (which is pretty hilarious) proves so popular that he starts making tons of money but he eventually loses direction and becomes the very thing that he initially fought against...

    I would definitely say Putney is a revolutionary....he even starts dressing like Castro..


    Maybe a little slow in parts but a pretty damn good movie overall....

  • GuzzoGuzzo 8,611 Posts
    Wouldn't the FUBU construct negate the sploitation[/b] part of the equation?

    The industry saw what happened w/ Sweetback and followed suit. The term was coined post Sweetback.

    I've had this talk with several film professors (both black and white). The overall consensus from them seemed to be that if a white director made these they do not qualify as actual blaxploitation

    This means films like Coffy are considered not to be blaxploitation but rather sexploitative films with a black lead character.

    during the boom of "blaxploitation" films studios weren't really caring about putting out a genuine product, just one that would make money

  • rayray 77 Posts
    Wouldn't the FUBU construct negate the sploitation[/b] part of the equation?

    The industry saw what happened w/ Sweetback and followed suit. The term was coined post Sweetback.

    I've had this talk with several film professors (both black and white). The overall consensus from them seemed to be that if a white director made these they do not qualify as actual blaxploitation

    This means films like Coffy are considered not to be blaxploitation but rather sexploitative films with a black lead character.

    during the boom of "blaxploitation" films studios weren't really caring about putting out a genuine product, just one that would make money



    3 of the 5 movies you listed in the other blaxploitation thread were directed by white guys.

  • GuzzoGuzzo 8,611 Posts
    Wouldn't the FUBU construct negate the sploitation[/b] part of the equation?

    The industry saw what happened w/ Sweetback and followed suit. The term was coined post Sweetback.

    I've had this talk with several film professors (both black and white). The overall consensus from them seemed to be that if a white director made these they do not qualify as actual blaxploitation

    This means films like Coffy are considered not to be blaxploitation but rather sexploitative films with a black lead character.

    during the boom of "blaxploitation" films studios weren't really caring about putting out a genuine product, just one that would make money



    3 of the 5 movies you listed in the other blaxploitation thread were directed by white guys.

    I guess 3 out of those 5 can't qualify for the first blaxploitation film then, can they?

    if you're asking what films I like that are considered to fall under the blaxploitation catagory than I'll name what I named.

    If I'm being asked to give a clear cut definition of what a blaxploitation film is based on a consensus opinion I've gathered that I'll describe that as well.

  • p_gunnp_gunn 2,284 Posts
    putney swoope is dope movie, but it's not really coming from a black perspective (dare a honky say it...)...
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