“Godfather of Black Cinema” Melvin Van Peebles Dead at 89

Iconic, groundbreaking filmmaker and godfather of Black cinema, Melvin Van Peebles passed away at age 89. Van Peebles was the creator of the “blaxploitation” genre of film that took over the 1970s.

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Van Peebles died in his home in Manhattan. His son, Mario Van Peebles, released the following statement:

“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.”

Through his storied career, Van Peebles wrote books and plays, recorded several albums, and created iconic films like “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.”


Van Peebles’s career and the 50th anniversary of his Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song were set to be honored at the New York Film Festival. In addition, Criterion Collection is releasing a box set of Melvin Van Peebles: Essential Films.