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Independent Lens Q&A: Contextualizing the Black Power Movement for a New Generation

By Michelle Michalos
Friday, February 10th, 2012
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When Göran Olssen unearthed reels of footage from Swedish television crews in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, he stumbled on a unique perspective of a controversial period in American history. The FBI’s war on the Black Power Movement helped skew public perception of the cause inside America’s borders, but these outsiders managed to chronicle the period without preconceptions. Olssen felt compelled to share the footage with the world, and created a film which illuminates this historic time from the past and through interviews with activists and cultural icons of today. Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 premieres this Sunday, Feb. 12 at 11 p.m. on THIRTEEN.

Interview courtesy of Independent Lens. For more interviews and other Independent Lens film content, visit their blog.

What impact do you hope this film will have?

Change the world for the better, forever.

But seriously, I hope this film will introduce a new generation to the Black Power Movement in a fresh and engaging manner and completely reframe and recontextualize the Black Power Movement for those who already know something about it, or who remember it. Where the earlier U.S. civil rights movement has been recognized (if somewhat sanitized), the Black Power Movement has been historically vilified on the one hand and fetishized on the other. Its legacy has not been properly contextualized, and its influence on other liberation struggles and political movements has been virtually erased.

I hope it will resonate with contemporary relevance — the beginnings of corporate media consolidation, the surveillance society, “the war on terror,” “the war on drugs,” war itself, poverty, resistance movements, racial discrimination, are all central in this film and to life in America in 2012.

We hope the film will inspire people to think critically about the world we are living in, make connections to other justice movements and transform their societies.

What led you to make this film?

I found this material in the basement of the Swedish Broadcast Cooperation, and realized two things. First, this could make a great film. Secondly, it’s my duty to put this out.

What were some of the challenges you faced in making this film?

Leaving important and great stuff out. Like a beautiful piece on Shirley Chisholm’s presidential campaign in 1972.

What would you have liked to include in your film that didn’t make the cut?

How hard the FBI came down on the Black Power Movement. Killing people and destroying people’s lives.

The independent film business is a difficult one. What keeps you motivated?

I have never done anything else, and it’s too late to change.

What are your three favorite films?

In the Street, by Helen Lewit
Dont Look Back, by D.A. Pennebaker
Harlan County U.S.A., by Barbara Kopple

What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?

Do your own thing. Do not attend film schools. Work with friends.

What do you think is the most inspirational food for making independent film?

Champagne.


  • james edwards

    Thank you 4 this story.Many young blacks
    still didnt understand the struggle at that time.