The Film That Made ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song’ Possible

Melvin Van Peebles had to go to France to make “The Story of a Three Day Pass,” the tale of a Black soldier on leave that’s full of bold directorial choices.

By Nicolas Rapold

I don’t think anyone who sees the title “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” forgets it. The eye-popping film made Melvin Van Peebles a pioneer of 1970s American cinema and pure independent hustle. But a few years earlier, Van Peebles directed his first trailblazer in France: “The Story of a Three Day Pass” his feature debut, which was released commercially in 1968 and is opening at Film Forum on Friday in a new restoration.

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