Melvin Van Peebles, the influential and groundbreaking director, died in his Manhattan home on Tuesday, September 21st.
Melvin Van Peebles, the 89-year filmmaker, was famous for his work in Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song – 1971 and Watermelon Man (1970).
In a recent statement, Melvin Van Peebles’ son Mario Van Peebles, who was also an actor and filmmaker, announced his father’s death at their home in Manhattan.
On Wednesday, Melvin Van Peebles, son, said, “Dad knew that Black images matter. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what was a movie worth?” and added that 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.”
For his outstanding work, Melvin was often called the “godfather of modern Black cinema,“. He wrote several plays and books and did many albums. He won hearts with his instrumental music and rap-style lyrics. However, later he joined the stock market and made his name as a successful options trader.
Melvin Van Peebles Has Died | A Reelblack Remembrance (2021)
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song was one of the hit movies of his career. He was the writer, director, producer, and star of the low-budget movie. He played the role of a black street hustler who was running from the police after killing some officers who abused a black revolutionary.
With his tough life depicted in the movie, it set a new debate regarding black people: whether they are being acknowledged or exploited.
In 1971, the same year his movie was released, Melvin Van Peebles stated to Newsweek that “All the films about black people up till now have been told through the eyes of the Anglo-Saxon majority in their rhythms and speech and pace.”
In 2003, he told The Associated Press, “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,” and “So I said ‘Ba-ad Assess,’ as you say it.”
In the 1980s, Melvin Van Peebles shifted his focus to stock trading and wrote a self-help book titled “Bold Money: A New Way to Play the Options Market.”
Melvin Van Peebles was born in 1932 in Chicago. Initially, his name was Van Peebles, and later, he added Melvin to it.
In 1953, he graduated from Wesleyan University, Ohio, and served as a navigator in the air force for three years.
The following year, he was hired for writing and directing the score for “Watermelon Man,” the tale of a white bigot (that is played by comic Godfey Cambridge in white face) who wakes up one day as a black man.