Categories: Culture

Groundbreaking Filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles Dead at 89

A decorated novelist, actor, musician, and filmmaker, Melvin Van Peebles was considered the “godfather of black cinema.”

The film world is mourning the loss of Melvin Van Peebles. The groundbreaking multi-hyphenate filmmaker died on Tuesday night in his Manhattan home with family by his side. He was 89-years-old.

Van Peebles death was announced on behalf of his family in a joint statement from The Criterion Collection and Janus Films.

In a storied career, Van Peebles was a decorated novelist, actor, musician, and director, who used the stage, the screen, the page,  and virtually any format he could to center and showcase the complexity of the black experience in America in the wake of the civil rights movement. Working with and around the studio system when needed, Van Peebles charted a fiercely independent course as a filmmaker, helming Watermelon Man for Columbia Pictures in 1970 and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, the iconic 1971 film, for which he wrote, directed, scored, self-funded, and even designed a marketing campaign (“Rated X … By an All-White Jury.”). The latter film was selected for preservation by The Library of Congress just last year. It will also be included in a forthcoming commemorative boxset from Criterion, which is slated to arrive next week.

Actor and director Mario Van Peebles offered a few words on his father’s death in a brief statement. “Dad knew that Black images matter. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what was a movie worth?,” Van Peebles wrote. “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.”



Zo is a staff writer at Okayplayer where he covers music.

Published by

Recent Posts

Wu-Tang Clan is Reportedly Working with Xbox on a New Video Game

Gaming insiders claim Xbox Game Studios is developing a new role-playing game based on "the… Read More

October 25, 2021

Mixtape Monday: Gangster Doodles, Leek Lone, TatzumaKiii, Teller Bank$, Tyshawn x King Britt + More

Gangster Doodles, Leek Lone, TatzumaKiii, Teller Bank$, Tyshawn x King Britt and more this Mixtape… Read More

October 25, 2021

Spotify, Amazon, and Pandora Want to Pay Musicians Even Less for Streams

Spotify and Pandora are already two of the three lowest-paying digital streaming services. A new… Read More

October 22, 2021

Black Trans Ex-Netflix Employee Speaks Out About Being Fired Amid Dave Chappelle Backlash

"First and foremost, I am the person who was fired," said B. Pagels-Minor in an… Read More

October 22, 2021

Best Songs of The Week: ft. JPEGMAFIA, Maxo Kream, and More

The Round-Up is Okayplayer’s weekly playlist of the best songs in the worlds of hip-hop… Read More

October 22, 2021

Best Music Videos Of The Week: Isaiah Rashad, Meek Mill, Tems & More

The best new music videos of the week include selects Tems, Meek Mill, Maxo Kream,… Read More

October 22, 2021