Dramatizes Melvin Van Peeble's struggle to make the first truly \independent" film"
is actor-writer-director Mario Van Peebles's best film since 1991's New Jack City
; more accurately, it is a mature and often dazzling work beyond previous expectations of Van Peebles' skills as a filmmaker. Certainly he was inspired by the autobiographical subject: The making of his father's 1971, independently produced Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song
, in which young Mario made his acting debut amidst a frantic, high-pressure operation that paid off when African American audiences embraced the film. Playing his ownhard-nosed dad, Melvin Van Peebles, the younger talent explores--honestly, but not ruthlessly--Melvin's rocky relationship with an ever-disappointed Mario (played by Holes
' Khleo Thomas), but he also portrays the elder man as a stubborn idealist against a backdrop of Hollywood cynicism about black entertainment. The film is a whirlwind of action and innovative scenes recreating personal history but without the insistent discursiveness of memory. With Nia Long, Ossie Davis, and Saul Rubinek. --Tom Keogh