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Mario Van Peebles talks new Western "Outlaw Posse"

Wide-ranging discussion included Black history in connection to Westerns, family legacy, and Black representation in film.

Ray Cornelious, Mario Van Peebles, Mandela Van Peebles

WORDS: Panther Staff

PHOTOS: Justin Miller

Legendary film director and actor Mario Van Peebles and his son Mandela Van Peebles stopped by Clark Atlanta University's Division of Communication Arts to discuss their new film "Outlaw Posse" with CAU's Mass Media Arts and Theatre Arts students, Black history in connection to Westerns, and Black representation in film.

Set in 1908, Chief (Mario Van Peebles) returns from years of hiding in Mexico to claim stolen gold hidden in the hills of Montana. In his quest, he reunites an ensemble of fresh and familiar faces—together they fight off Angel, whose rationale to the gold leaves a trail of deception and disaster.

The interview, conducted by Ray Cornelius of WCLK 91.1 FM and Panther staff writer Asha Breedlove, was hosted by CAU-TV 23.

"We used our diversity ... our racial diversity as a strength, and that's part of the strength of America," said the elder Van Peebles. "I wanted to make a Western we loved for all of us ... like a big old gumbo in a big old pot. And then I throw all my love and my smarts and my action and stir it up. And that's when we get 'Outlaw Posse."'

A major theme throughout the discussion was storytelling legacy—Van Peebles invoked his father Melvin Van Peebles when Breedlove asked him to explain the inspiration behind a powerful quote from the film: "Religion is the story we tell ourselves about the future; history is the story we tell ourselves about the past and it's told by those in power."

"I remember my dad saying to me 'History is really a book written by the winner' ... that is something that gets handed down and shaped. Depending on who wins, that's what's going to get taught," he said. "In making a movie that examines some of the American Origin Story with our Western, there are going to be people that get hot, but hopefully the humor and the love that comes out too will sort of balance it out."

"We've been basically written out of the West, but we're taking that back," he continued. "We're taking back the optics—me, Beyonce, Pharell, y'all—if we make movies like this work, we're taking back our history. And we're not just making America great again, we're fighting for the America we can still be, not just the America we've been, because we've never been perfect, we can always be better."

"Outlaw Posse" was released in theaters nationally on Friday, March 1st and stars heavy hitters such as Whoopi Goldberg (playing Stagecoach Mary), DC Young Fly, Cedric the Entertainer and Allen Payne.

See full conversation below:


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