Melvin Van Peebles, the outstanding playwright, director, and musician, died at 89 in Manhattan.
His work in “blaxploitation” back in the 1970s influenced a lot of filmmakers in the media industry.
In a recent statement, his son, Marion Van Peebles, disclosed that his father died in their Manhattan house on Tuesday, Sept 21.
“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.” – said Melvin Van Peebles’ son.
The multitalented person, also known as the “godfather of modern Black cinema,” recorded various albums and wrote influential books, self-help guides and plays. He played numerous musical instruments and delivered rap lyrics with perfection.
His “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” was from one of the most influential movies he produced in his entire career. He even starred in it, playing the role of a Black street hustler who killed white officers.
The life he depicted in that movie caused chaos in the industry.
Regarding his movie, Melvin Van Peebles told Newsweek that “All the films about Black people up to now have been told through the eyes of the Anglo-Saxon majority in their rhythms and speech and pace,”
To The Associated News, he said, “I could have called it ‘The Ballad of the Indomitable Sweetback.’ But I wanted the core audience, the target audience, to know it’s for them,”
So I said ‘Ba-ad Assess,’ like you really say it.” – said Melvin Van Peebles.
Despite being given the X-rated title and receiving tremendous criticism, the movie generated a gross business of $14 million at the Box Office. Among several critics, one accused the star and director of the movie of selling injustice.
On Wednesday, a Black film director mourned Melvin Van Peebles’ death as the “Moonlight” director stated on Twitter, “He made the most of every second, of EVERY single damn frame.”
In the initial years of his success, Melvin Van Peebles received an influx of offers from the top directors. However, he continued to work independently. “I’ll only work with them on my terms,” – he said,
“I’ve whipped the man’s ass on his own turf. I’m number one at the box office — which is the way America measures things — and I did it on my own. Now they want me, but I’m in no hurry.”
Melvin Van Peebles was scheduled to celebrate the “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song’s 50th anniversary with the New York Film Festival.
Criterion Collection is expected to release a collection of “Melvin Van Peebles: Essential Films.”, next week.