Melvin Van Peebles, the Chicago native who’s also the first black independent filmmaker of the modern era, is in town for the local premiere tonight of his latest film Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha. Adapting the film and score from his own 1981 Broadway play Waltz of the Stork, the 76-year-old Van Peebles plays a version of himself, called MVP, following the character from his Chicago youth to New York to globe-spanning, girl-in-every-port adventures in the merchant marine.
Van Peebles ushered in the Blaxploitation era with his black power opus Sweet Sweetback Baadasssss Song, which he wrote, directed, produced, starred in, composed the music for, and self-distributed in 1971, with the tagline “Rated X by an All-White Jury.” Sweetback was revolutionary for its depiction of a virile, rebellious black hero, and with the support of the Black Panther Party went on to be the most successful independent film that year, eventually grossing $15 million against its $150,000 budget.
Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha, which debuted a year ago at the Tribeca Film Festival, is Van Peebles’s first feature as director since the 2000 French comedy Bellyful and his first in America since Gang in Blue, a 1996 story about a white supremacist cell in the LAPD, directed with his son Mario.
And here’s a taste of Sweetback: