The front line struggles of the US civil rights movement between 1967 and 1975 are depicted in this fascinating documentary collage. The turbulent era is presented through the eyes of Swedish television journalists, whose mandate was to discover ‘the real America’. The footage is vivid and sensational, especially scenes of rousing speeches by the likes of Stokely Carmichael, Huey P Newton and Louis Farrakhan. Even the news broadcast inserts – clamorous street scenes and dilapidated tenements in Harlem – transcend simple nostalgia to offer a tangible sense of the where and when. One features a feisty, one-to-one interview with firebrand black power activist Angela Davis, whose forceful rhetoric tears her naive inquisitor to tatters.
The film is testament to the power of archival legwork in documentary-filmmaking. But, as powerful as the footage is, the impression is that the makers are using ‘mixtape’ as a hip umbrella term to gloss over it being a disparate mélange of observations about the black experience in America. Director Olsson embellishes the footage with testimonies from modern commentators, including Erykah Badu, John Forté and Melvin Van Peebles. Their impassioned monologues offer contemporary insights into black pride and identity, but the relationship between the audio and visual elements of the film remains vague.