Melvin Van Peebles The godfather of Black cinema
Melvin Van Peebles, the groundbreaking filmmaker, playwright, and musician whose work ushered in the “blaxploitation” wave of the 1970s and influenced filmmakers long after, has died. He was 89.
In a statement, his family said 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?” Mario Van Peebles said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
But 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.