Melvin Van Peebles, known as the ‘Godfather of modern Black cinema’, has passed away at the age of 89.
According to a joint statement shared on Twitter by his family, The Criterion Collection and Janus Films filmmaker died at his Manhattan home on Tuesday evening.
Peebles was best known for his film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, which he funded completely independently and proved a driving force behind the ‘Blaxploitation’ genre. His other works include The Story Of A Three-Day Pass, Watermelon Man and Panther.
“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.” Read the statement.
“Dad knew that Black images matter,” added a segment from Peebles‘ son, Mario Van Peebles. “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 colinizer’s mentality. It meant appreciating the power, beauty and interconnectivity of all people.”
Here’s the full text of our announcement on the passing of Melvin Van Peebles: pic.twitter.com/n0svUACrKP
— Criterion Collection (@Criterion) September 22, 2021
Tributes have poured in online, commemorating Peebles‘ life and work.
“We’ve lost another lion, the true revolutionary, an artistic gangsta,” wrote actor David Alan Grier.
We’ve lost another lion, the true revolutionary, an artistic gangsta, cultural disrupter who forever changed the game Rest n Peace Melvin Van Peebles ✊🏾🙏🏾✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/OH9D6Slnbx
— David Alan Grier (@davidalangrier) September 22, 2021
“Damn. Rest In Peace Melvin Van Peebles,” said filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry.
Damn. Rest In Peace Melvin Van Peebles. The blueprint and inspiration for multiple generations of filmmakers. A whole legend. https://t.co/CfHBbXqIgT
— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) September 22, 2021
“Melvin Van Peebles surely was one of the few,” wrote screenwriter, Josh Olson. “A true giant has passed today.”
There are not a lot of genuine radicals or rebels in the movie business, but goddam, Melvin Van Peebles surely was one of the few. A true giant has passed today. pic.twitter.com/WexSu0d1I2
— Josh Olson (@joshuarolson) September 22, 2021
Rest in Peace, Melvin.
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