18 September 2014 | lee_eisenberg
the all-white jury should be wary of rating this X
Melvin Van Peebles came to moviegoers' attention when he released "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song", in which he played a hustler who has to go on the lam after killing some cops who were attacking a Black Panther. The movie was widely seen as the first frank look at what African-Americans wanted to say about their experiences, as opposed to what would make whites comfortable. Van Peebles released the movie with the tagline RATED X BY AN ALL-WHITE JURY.
With "Classified X" Van Peebles takes a look at the portrayals of African-Americans in movies since the birth of cinema. Lest you think that the racist depictions started with "The Birth of a Nation", Van Peebles includes scenes from Thomas Edison's movies which use blacks as the incompetent comic relief. From the portrayals of savages in loin cloths to modern movies in which blacks raise the consciousness of a white hero, Van Peebles has ample criticism of the depictions.
It's important to understand that this is part of US history. Van Peebles notes that the white power structure basically convinced blacks that these depictions were OK. I would've liked to hear Van Peebles's opinion of movies like "Buck and the Preacher". He noted that theaters now siphon off money from movies like "Malcolm X". I would like to see an update to see what Van Peebles's opinion of movies since 1998 that have focused on race relations, although I can guess what he would say about some movies. In the end, I recommend this one.