Legendary American filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, the director behind films like Watermelon Man, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and Panther, to name a notable few, has passed away. He was 89. Father of director and actor Mario Van Peebles, the late filmmaker, who was also an actor, playwright, novelist and composer, was born in 1932 in Chicago, and took to filmmaking at an early age by making short films. He made his entry into mainstream feature films with The Story of a Three-Day Pass in 1968, which indicated his aim of doing films focused on racism and diversity issues.
Melvin Van Peebles remains best known for his work on 1971's Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, which continues to be a landmark blaxploitation film, after it came out as a limited release and received a mixed critical response. However, the tide turned when positive word of mouth began to spread, elevating the film to end up becoming the highest-grossing indie feature at the time. Van Peebles went on to garner a following for his stage work, including writing books, music and lyrics for Broadway shows, and also won two Tony Awards. Apart from his work behind the camera, he has also made appearances in several films directed by his son, Mario.
Speaking about his father’s legacy, Melvin Van Peebles’ son Mario said in a statement from the Criterion Collection, "Dad knew that Black images matter. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what was a movie worth? We want to be the success we see, thus we need to see ourselves being free. True liberation did not mean imitating the colonizer’s mentality. It meant appreciating the power, beauty and inter-connectivity of all people." Condolences have been pouring in from leading celebrities and fans following the news of Van Peebles' demise.
“You have to not let yourself believe you can’t. Do what you can do within the framework you have. And don’t look outside. Look inside.”— Ava DuVernay (@ava) September 22, 2021
― the iconic artist, filmmaker, actor, playwright, novelist, composer and sage Melvin Van Peebles, who has gone home at the age of 89. pic.twitter.com/36BQKzN9G7
Melvin Van Peebles, groundbreaking #playwright and #director,— LEON (@justleon) September 23, 2021
dies at age 89 #rip 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾
The ‘godfather of modern Black cinema’ is best known for the film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song!#melvinvanpeebles #trailblazer #blackcinema @MelvinVanPeeble pic.twitter.com/dZBp50UihW
Thank You KING 👑
It’s not only what you did but the times and circumstances you did them in.
A Filmmaker who was the essence and embodiment of indy film in “struggle times”.
The beauty is you lived to see the fruits of your labor birth and feed many🕊 pic.twitter.com/pcvPvR29CX— MC HAMMER (@MCHammer) September 22, 2021
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