Melvin Van Peebles, iconic American actor, playwright, musician, and movie director has passed away on the 21st of September. He was 89. His death was confirmed by his family members in a statement released on Wednesday 22nd September.
His son, actor-director Mario Van Peebles, appreciated his late father’s contributions to the film industry and said, “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”.
Godfather of Black Cinema, Melvin Van Peebles Dies
“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,” he added.
Melvin Peebles was born in the year 1932 in Chicago. He completed his graduation from Ohio Wesleyan University in the year 1953. Post completion of his graduation he joined the Air Force as a navigator and worked for three and half years.
Melvin who is also referred to as the “godfather of modern Black cinema,” shot his first short film in the year 1957 titled “Pickup Men for Herrick” and made a couple of more short films. He was multitalented who used to write numerous books and plays, also played different instruments, and was a lyricist. He later ventured into the world of finance and became a successful derivatives options trader in the stock market.
The inflection point of his career was his contribution as a writer, director, and cast in “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” in the year 1971 which was a huge success. Next week at the New York Film Festival his film will be screened in his honor.
Apart from directing films, in the year 1981 Van Peebles made his debut in television acting in the miniseries “The Sophisticated Gents”. Father-son duo collaborated in the film “Identity Crisis” wherein Van Peebles was directing and Mario starred as Chilly D, a struggling rapper. They were later seen in other movies like “Panther” (1995), “Love Kills” (1998) as well as “Redemption Road” (2010).
Many celebrities have shared their condolences on social media when news of Van Peeble’s death was made public.
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. The man just absolutely LIVED pic.twitter.com/IIpfU8wI7q
— Barry Jenkins (@BarryJenkins) September 22, 2021
Famous Filmmaker Ava DuVernay tweeted by sharing a quote from Van Peebles: “You have to not let yourself believe you can’t. Do what you can do within the framework you have. And don’t look outside. Look inside.” She further mentioned him as an iconic artist, filmmaker, actor, playwright, novelist, composer as well as sage.
Here is the tweet below:
“You have to not let yourself believe you can’t. Do what you can do within the framework you have. And don’t look outside. Look inside.”
― the iconic artist, filmmaker, actor, playwright, novelist, composer and sage Melvin Van Peebles, who has gone home at the age of 89. pic.twitter.com/36BQKzN9G7
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) September 22, 2021
American standup comedian and actor said in a statement to USA TODAY, “Melvin’s works as a composer, writer and performer need to be studied. The two original Thirty-Three and a Third albums, ‘Brer Soul’ and ‘Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death’ are amazing — written, composed and performed by the great Melvin Van Peebles. In his time, Melvin did not have the luxury of producers and directors of today. Thank you, Melvin!”