IFC Sticks It to the Man With “Baadasssss Cinema” A Bold Examination of Blaxploitation Films

Groundbreaking Film By Director Isaac Julien Airs August 14 at 10:00PM ET/PT
Features Pam Grier, Melvin Van Peebles, Quentin Tarantino and Others

The Independent Film Channel (IFC) will premiere a groundbreaking new film BAADASSSSS CINEMA on August 14 at 10:00PM ET/PT. The IFC Original, directed by Isaac Julien (Cannes Critics’ Prize Winning Young Soul Rebels), looks back to the soulful, strange days of the 70s to explore an exciting and controversial era of film history: the phenomenon that was blaxploitation.

Blaxploitation movies took their cue from the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, casting black actors for the first time in starring roles, as heroes instead of victims. These films drew larger African American audiences than any others before or since, yet they have long been relegated to the category of “exploitation” and thus kept outside the canon of cinema history. A bold re-examination of this position, BAADASSSSS CINEMA combines archival material with footage from black action films such as COFFY, BLACULA, SUPERFLY, BLACK CAESAR, FOXY BROWN, SHAFT, HELL UP IN HARLEM, SWEET SWEETBACK’S BAADASSSSS SONG along with many others, to argue that blaxploitation films were in fact complex reactions to social situations and inequalities: works that revelled in the ridiculous and gave relief from rage with powerful imagery and humour.

“Blaxploitation films were some of the most experimental and daring films to come out of both the independent film scene and the studio system,” explains Frances Berwick, Senior Vice President Programming, IFC and Bravo. “They played a major role in the history of cinema and we still feel their influences in today’s movies, pop culture, music and fashion. Surprisingly this genre is one of the most ignored and under-appreciated, so we felt the time was right to make this documentary.”

“Isaac Julien’s background as a filmmaker, artist and professor of Afro-American Studies at Harvard makes him the perfect candidate to delve into and represent this topic,” adds Alison Bourke, Executive Producer for IFC Originals. “He is a perfect fit for IFC.”

The real heart of the BAADASSSSS CINEMA lies with the major figures of the period, and the compelling stories they share. Actors Pam Grier (Foxy Brown), Fred Williamson (Black Caesar) and Gloria Hendry (Black Belt Jones), filmmakers Melvin Van Peebles (Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song), Quentin Tarantino (Jackie Brown) and
Larry Cohen (Hell Up In Harlem) as well as former Panther member Afeni Shakur, film critics Elvis Mitchell (New York Times) and Armond White (New York Press), film historian Ed Guerrero, author/culture critic bell hooks (Reel To Real: Race, Sex & Class At The Movies) and fashion designer Ron Finley, speak about a whole range of issues and experiences behind the making of these movies. With these interviews, BAADASSSSS CINEMA applauds the genre’s innovative vision, examines its inspirations, shows how the success of blaxploitation films turned the studios’ attention to emerging black audiences and addresses questions raised about exploitation, commercialism, freedom and experimentation. The film traces the rise, fall, and regeneration of blaxploitation cinema.

“Films like ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song’ really invented a black audience. Of course, the audience had always been there, but it had never had black actors and films to represent to its own experiences in such an explicit way,” comments Director Isaac Julien.

BAADASSSSS CINEMA is the cornerstone of IFC’s on-air festival airing from Wednesday, August 14 to Saturday, August 17. See blaxploitation icon Pam Grier kick some butt in
Foxy Brown (Jack Hill/1974) on Wednesday, August 14 at 11:00PM/ET. There was never a dude like Superfly (Gordon Parks, Jr./1972), starring Ron O’Neal and featuring Curtis Mayfield’s legendary soundtrack, airs Thursday, August 15 at 10PM/ET. Richard Roundtree is back for more in Shaft’s Big Score (Gordon Parks/1972) on Friday, August 16 at 10:00PM/ET. You can catch them all together back-to-back on Saturday, August 17 beginning at 8:00PM/ET.

IFCTV.com will rollout it’s BAADASSSSS CINEMA content beginning July 15. Site features will include the “Which BaadAsssss Are You” Quiz, in which participants can determine which BaadAsssss icon they most resemble, a BaadAsssss Cinema postcard, the “BaadAsssss Cinema Kit” Sweepstakes, an exclusive Q&A with director Isaac Julien, in addition to programming descriptions and scheduling information.

The Independent Film Channel (IFC), managed and operated by Bravo Networks, is the first and most widely distributed channel dedicated to independent film presented 24 hours a day, uncut and commercial-free. IFC Originals produces cutting-edge original programming to air exclusively on IFC. IFC continues to expand its programming lineup with original series and independent genre-focused specials. The network’s recent, critically acclaimed series and specials include Dinner For Five, With the Filmmaker: Portraits by Albert Maysles, Errol Morris’ First Person, The American Nightmare, Crossover, and Indie Sex: Taboos.

Press Contacts

  • Elektra Gray

  • Ellen Paz

  • Janice Roland
    Falco Ink