Melvin Van Peebles, the pioneering African American auteur behind the 1970s films Watermelon Man and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, has died. He was 89.
Van Peebles, the father of actor-director Mario Van Peebles, died Tuesday night at his home in Manhattan. His family, The Criterion Collection and Janus Films announced his death in a statement.
“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.”
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