Photo: Alex Lozupone

Legendary Musician/Director Melvin Van Peebles: Dead At 89

The trailblazing African-American director who helped champion a new wave of modern Black cinema in the 1970s, Melvin Van Peebles, has died at the age of 89.

Father of fellow actor and director Mario Van Peebles, died at home on Tuesday night and according to a statement shared by his son: “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.”

An accomplished author, playwright and advocate for independent filmmakers Among Melvin Van Peebles’ most successful movies were “Watermelon Man” (1970) and “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” (1971).

In a statement about his the Senior Peebles, his son, The Criterion Collection and Janus Films celebrated his contributions to the arts the read: “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,” the statement read. 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’; a Criterion Collection box set, ‘Melvin Van Peebles: Essential Films,’ next week; and a revival of his play ‘Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death,’ slated for a return to Broadway next year.”

Sharing a memory of the last time the two filmmakers got together.”Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins said “He made the most of every second, of EVERY single damn frame and admittedly, while the last time I spent any time with him was MANY years ago, it was a night in which he absolutely danced his face off,” Jenkins wrote in a tweet. “The man just absolutely LIVED.”

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Author: Brad LeBeau

Photo: Alex Lozupone