Veteran filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles has passed away at the age of 89.
According to CNN, Melvin died at his home in Manhattan on Tuesday night. The news of his demise was announced by his family.
In statement, his family said that Van Peebles, father of the actor-director Mario Van Peebles, died Tuesday evening at his home in Manhattan.
“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 interconnectivity of all people,” Melvin’s son Mario Van Peebles said in a statement.
His son Mario Van Peebles also shared a video message on Instagram while paying his tribute.
Melvin was popularly known as the godfather of modern Black cinema. He had helped champion a new wave of modern Black cinema in the 1970s — especially with his films ‘Watermelon Man’ and ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song’.
Melvin also was also a novelist, theatre impresario, songwriter, musician and painter.
He was best known for ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song’, one of the most influential movies of its time. The low-budget, art-house film, which he wrote, produced, directed, starred in and scored, was the frenzied, hyper-sexual and violent tale of a Black street hustler on the run from police after killing white officers who were beating a Black revolutionary.
Van Peebles’ death came just days before the New York Film Festival is to celebrate him with a 50th anniversary of “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.” A revival of his play “Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death” is also planned to hit Broadway next year, with Mario Van Peebles serving as creative producer.
May the departed soul rest in peace!