We are sad to report that groundbreaking and iconic Black filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles has died at the age of 89.
Van Peebles is considered by many to be the godfather of modern Black cinema and was the major influence for an influential link to the younger generations of Black filmmakers. Not only did he leave an indelible mark on Black cinema, he’s considered to be an independent filmmaking pioneer.
His most influential work is considered to be Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song, which he also starred in. It is considered a glass-shatterer for Black filmmaking. The film was already set to be celebrated this weekend at the New York Film Festival for its 50th anniversary.
“Dad knew that Black images matter,” said his son and longtime creative collaborator, Mario Van Peebles, in a statement. “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.
A statement from Janus Films and Criterion Collection also added, “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’ other works include Don’t Play Us Cheap!, Identity Crisis, Posse!, Watermelon Mana and more.
Our thoughts are with the Van Peebles family at this time.