Melvin Van Peebles, an actor, writer, director, producer and icon of Black cinema whose films include Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and Watermelon Man, died Tuesday night at his home. He was 89.
His death was confirmed by his son, Mario Van Peebles, who said in a statement: “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.”
Janus Films and Criterion Collection also announced the news on Twitter and said in a statement:
In an unparalleled career, distinguished by relentless innovation, boundless curiosity and spiritual empathy, Melvin Van Peebles made an indelible mark on the international cultural landscape through his films, novels, plays and music. His work continues to be essential and is being celebrated at the New York Film Festival this weekend with a 50th anniversary screening of his landmark film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.
Van Peebles probably is best known for writing, directing, producing and starring in Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, the landmark 1971 blaxploitation pic that was selected for the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry last year.
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