October 25, 2021

Melvin Van Peebles dies aged 89

By Bang Showbiz in Movies / TV / Theatre on 23 September 2021

Melvin Van Peebles has died at the age of 89.

The influential filmmaker was described as the “godfather of black cinema” and is known for his 1970s pictures ‘Watermelon Man’ and ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song’.

Melvin passed away on Tuesday (21.09.21) evening at his New York home and his death was announced in a joint statement from his family, The Criterion Collection of prestige movies of which his films were included, and the distributor Janus Films.

It read: “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.”

Melvin’s movies tackled racial themes as ‘Watermelon Man’ featured a white, racist insurance salesman who wakes up to discover that he is black while the blaxploitation flick ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song’ featured a black man trying to escape white police officers.

The filmmaker’s son and collaborator Mario Van Peebles said: “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 coloniser’s mentality.

“It meant appreciating the power, beauty and interconnectivity of all people.”

The Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins was among figures from the film industry paying tribute to the filmmaker.

The ‘Moonlight’ director tweeted: “He made the most of every second, of EVERY single damn frame and admittedly, while the last time I spent any time with him was MANY years ago, it was a night in which he absolutely danced his face off. The man just absolutely LIVED (sic)”


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