Greetings, cinema friends,
Tonight, Black Independents Vol II begins at the Cinema. Our yearly survey of the varied waves of Black independent American cinema kicks off with Melvin Van Peebles’ The Story of a Three Day Pass.
Infamous cinematic provocateur and polymath (author, playwright, composer, journalist, Korean War veteran, and one-time doctoral astronomy researcher also make up his multihyphenate credits) Melvin Van Peebles went to Paris in 1967 to make what would be the first narrative feature film directed by an African American since before the Second World War. With the help of Albert Johnson, the first Black film programmer for a major festival, the film would make its way back into the US cinematic landscape through subterfuge, with very American Van Peebles appearing as a foreign delegate at the San Francisco International Film Festival, much to the embarrassment of the white American higher-ups.
The Story of a Three Day Pass, newly restored after being nearly completely inaccessible for half a century, is a wildly inventive romantic dramedy about a Black American G.I. taking weekend leave in Paris, finding whirlwind love with a white woman and clashing with the sometimes contradictory nature of European progressives, all while turning the style of the French New Wave on its head. The film ultimately served as a warning shot for the cinematic revolution that would be unleashed with his second feature, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.
Black Independents Vol II continues through February, next with Kathleen Collins’ Losing Ground—screening Wednesday, February 16 and opening with a performance from J.ARTiz and MO’ Soul Collective, the newest project from local multihyphenate and Ragtag Film Society alum, Josh Runnels.