According to Associated Press, Melvin Van Peebles, the groundbreaking filmmaker, playwright, and musician whose work ushered in the Blaxploitation wave of the 1970s and influenced filmmakers long after, has died. He was 89.
In a statement, his family said that Van Peebles, father of the actor-director Mario Van Peebles, died Tuesday evening at his home in Manhattan.
“Dad knew that Black images matter. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what was a movie worth?” Mario Van Peebles said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
Sometimes called the “godfather of modern Black cinema,” the multitalented Van Peebles wrote numerous books and plays, and recorded several albums, playing multiple instruments and delivering rap-style lyrics. He later became a successful options trader on the stock market.
But he was best known for “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” one of the most influential movies of its time.