Melvin Van Peebles, Godfather of New African American Cinema, Dies at 89

Melvin Van Peebles, actor, director, screenwriter, producer and one of the great icons and promoters of African American cinema, has died to 89 years. The artist, known for his roles in the series ‘The shining’ or ‘Violent persecution’, He passed away at his home in Manhattan on Tuesday, September 21.

The death of the one known as the godfather of the new film noir, was confirmed by his son, Mario Van Peebles, through a statement. “Dad knew that black images mattered. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much was a movie worth?? We want to be the success that we see, that is why we need to be free. True liberation does not mean imitating the mindset of the colonizer. It means appreciating the power, beauty and interconnectivity of all people.“, reads the text.

Born August 21, 1932 in Chicago, Van Peebles started in the world of short films. His first feature film was ‘La Permission’, a 1967 production about a black soldier who is demoted for an affair with a white woman. Back in 1970 he directed ‘Watermelon Man’, which revolves around a white man who one day discovers that his skin color has changed. With this comedy the director offered his vision of what it meant to be black in the United States at that time.

His most outstanding film is ‘Violent persecution’, title representative of the genre blaxploitation released in 1971. The film is about an orphan raised in a brothel whose sexual ability helps him get out of various difficult situations while facing racism in Los Angeles. The film had a very limited release, only in one theater in Atlanta and another in Detroit, but thanks to word of mouth it became the highest.grossing indie title in film history at the time.. The film features a soundtrack from the iconic group Earth, Wind & Fire.

In addition, the American co.wrote the script for ‘A madman at the wheel’, 1977 biopic starring Richard Pryor as Wendell Scott, the first black driver to win a top.tier NASCAR race.

Van Peebles also worked in the theater and in 1971 wrote the libretto, music and lyrics for the play. ‘Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death’, which ran for eight months on Broadway and earned him two Tony Awards. ‘Don’t Play Us Cheap!’ (1972), ‘Reggae’ (1980) and ‘Waltz of the Stork’ (1982) are some of the artist’s later theatrical successes.

On television he stood out as a scriptwriter of ‘The Sophisticated Gents’, miniseries about a sports club of African Americans who come together after 25 years to honor their former coach. As an actor, he made occasional appearances in titles such as the miniseries ‘The glow’, ‘All my kids’, ‘Police corruption’ O ‘Girlfriends’.

His last role dates from 2018, when he appeared in ‘Armed (The Great American Conspiracy)’. A short film entitled ‘Pile On!’.


After knowing his death, there have been many artists who have said goodbye to Van Peebles. “I am very sorry for the loss of my brother, Melvin Van Peebles, who brought independent film noir to the forefront with his groundbreaking film Violent Persecution.. Melvin was a huge supporter of my film career. He even appeared on the set of ‘Do what you must’. Damn, we’ve lost another giant! ” Spike Lee, who shared a photo of a Violent Persecution poster signed by the filmmaker.

Ava DuVernay, director of ‘Selma’ or of the acclaimed miniseries ‘This is how they see us’, quoted the late author. “You must not allow yourself to believe that you cannot. Do what you can do within the framework you have. And don’t look out. Look inward, “he tweeted.

“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.

. Ava DuVernay (@ava) September 22, 2021

Made the most of every second, every fucking frame And, without a doubt, although the last time I spent time with him was many years ago, it was a night in which he danced non.stop. That man just lived“recalled the Oscar winner for ‘Moonlight’ Barry Jenkins.

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

– Barry Jenkins (@BarryJenkins) September 22, 2021

We have lost another lion, a true revolutionary, an artistic gangster, a cultural disruptor who forever changed the game. Rest in peace, Melvin Van Peebles“shared actor and comedian David Alan Grier.

We’ve lost another lion, the true revolutionary, an artistic gangsta, cultural disrupter who forever changed the game Rest n Peace Melvin Van Peebles ✊🏾🙏🏾✊🏾

– David Alan Grier (@davidalangrier) September 22, 2021

By Editor

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