Van Peebles Is Back Like A Mutha------!
Over 30 years and dozens of projects later Melvin Van Peebles brings us his newest creation â€œConfessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Muthaâ€? Not only is the film original, trippy, shocking, wise, brilliant and hilarious, it is a call to arms for all who say they long to see a revolution.
My beautiful brothers and sisters:
I want to talk to you today about a great filmmaker, Melvin Van Peebles.
Before anyone ever heard of Tyler Perry, Spike Lee or John Singleton, Melvin was making history.
His most well known movie “Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song” grossed millions, made him the undisputed godfather of independent cinema and introduced the world to a one-man revolution.
Melvin has been a mentor for Black Waxx Multimedia, the company I helped found, and for me personally. I’ve learned so many priceless lessons from him. First, I learned that while he has an amazing sense of humor, he stresses the importance of Black people knowing the difference between telling a joke and being a joke.
He taught me not to give away my formula in hopes of being accepted, but to pass my formula down to other brothers and sisters in need of the information. He showed me that something is said with action that words cannot pronounce.
And he taught me humility. On a Melvin Van Peebles set you work on every aspect of filmmaking from building the set to rigging costumes. One day we were shooting several green screen scenes in a studio with a black floor. By the time we were done the place was a mess, the floor practically destroyed with scuff marks and dust.
Melvin -The Melvin- grabbed some wet paper towels, got down on his hands and knees and started wiping down the floor. If it didn’t hit home before then, I realized at that moment that I was dealing with a singular individual.
He was born to direct not because he was good at telling people what to do--which he is. He’s great because he shows people what to do. I’d be a liar if I said he wouldn’t curse you out in a minute if you screwed up.
But he was just as quick to take you aside and teach you why he chose to set up a shot a certain way, why he cut certain elements out of the frame. Everyone knows that things rarely go according to plan on set, but rather than reach for his pocketbook to solve every problem, Melvin uses his creativity and his artist’s eye. For him, the bigger picture is always in view, shining with clarity in his mind’s eye.
Over 30 years and dozens of projects later he brings us his newest creation “Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha”, which I had the honor to collaborate with him on through Black Waxx Multimedia, Inc. Not only is the film original, trippy, shocking, wise, brilliant and hilarious, it is a call to arms for all who say they long to see a revolution.
“Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha” illustrates that we can look beyond subject matter for the ways in which a film is political. The manner in which a film is created is often the most political aspect of the film. When he made “Sweetback”, MVP- as I like to call him- did it without the unions, the big boys and the accredited associations. Sounds like the blueprint for starting a movement to me.
You can help to build a movement by supporting Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha. Don’t just spread the word on your list serve or your blog. That’s not enough. You’re going to have to buy a ticket and come to see it. You’re going to have to demand more showings. We need to show up in droves to prove that we recognize the connection between independent media and a major overhaul of the popular mindset.
I’m glad that MVP’s film was accepted into the Tribeca Film Festival and I know he’s ecstatic, but he’ll be the first one to tell you that it’s not enough just to get accepted. We know this very well. We’re not in this for acceptance. We’re in this to win, to dominate. This is not as much an accomplishment as it is another step in the right direction down a road we’ve been walking for as long as we can remember.
And for those of us who travel on the left side of that road, we understand that while the Tribeca institution is considered independent it isn’t totally off the plantation. And so we have to fight that much harder for success, even in a so called liberal arena. And as has always been the case in any revolution, our strength is in our numbers.
Many will want to know what the film is about. They’ll want to know who’s starring in it. I could easily say:
“Melvin Van Peebles, still our most playfully inventive filmmaker after nearly 50 years, returns with a boisterous adventure that ranges from Harlem to the high seas, following the exploits of a man (MVP, natch) who's always on the move--but always returns to New York.” Starring Melvin Van Peebles, Stephanie Weeks, Mario Van Peebles, Glen Turner, Teddy Hayes and Alfred Preisser.
And that’s true. But that’s not the point. It doesn’t matter what the film is about. What matters is that Black people have taken control over their intellectual property. They have risked it all to bring you a vision that is true and untainted by selloutism or self-doubt. They didn’t ask permission to bring their vision to you. Don’t wait for permission to do your part to make it a victory for all of us.
We often struggle with the prioritization of culture, resistance and industry. A movement cannot exist without industry. If ever there was a product we controlled it is our own intellectual and creative property. But how do we turn this into industry? We do it by supporting not only the independent ideas that best reflect our culture. We do it by creating our own stars and helping them to prosper.
They in turn feed into the movement and make it stronger. When we are stronger we are able to repeat this process until through all of the different segments that we have supported and strengthened we form an industry that we control.
I’ll put it in political activist terms. We’re going to have to converge on the Tribeca Film Festival. We need to mobilize all the people that we can to demonstrate that buying not just one ticket but more than one ticket to Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha is a direct action that will result in a mass movement toward the support of independent film and independent thinking. This is one sit in you need to stand up for.
No matter how many films Mr. Van Peebles makes, and no matter how great they are, they will always pale in comparison to what he’s done for Black people. At the end of the day, Melvin is greater than the sum of his parts, his resume extends beyond his filmography and his legacy will serve as reminder for us to reach for greatness and to never settle for less.
So I’m asking all the people who know me to support Melvin. I want you to experience what I have. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to meet one of the greatest men who ever lived. Melvin Van Peebles has seen to it that the revolution will be televised, whether on an iPod, a flat screen computer monitor, a 60 inch HD set up or the big screen. All the better to see us with.
Revolution then peace.
Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha debuts at the Tribeca Film Festival on Sunday, April 27th at 7:30pm at Pace University. For tickets and directions visit www.tribecafilmfestival.org
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