“Fucking will not set you free. If fucking freed, black people would have celebrated the millennium 400 years ago,” said a disapproving Lerone Bennett, journalist for Ebony, who apparently did not agree with the black-empowerment message in Melvin Van Peebles’s controversial 1971 film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. Like it or not, the audacious flick opens MOMA’s sixth annual International Festival of Film Preservation with a new print restored from the original camera negative. Written, directed, produced, edited, and scored by Van Peebles and shot on a shoestring budget, Sweet was a huge box-office hit that defied conventional visual and narrative technique. It’s also credited with ushering in the Blaxploitation genre. Starring Van Peebles as the well-endowed whorehouse performer Sweetback who’s framed for murder, the film follows him as he outruns the law and gives mind-blowing, multiple orgasms to every kind stranger who helps him along the way. The soundtrack was performed by a then-unknown Earth, Wind & Fire.
Sat., Oct. 25, 12:30 p.m., 2008