Skip to main content

Melvin Van Peebles, Influential Director, Actor and Writer, Dies at 89


 Melvin Van Peebles the influential filmmaker behind “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song,” and father of director and actor Mario Van Peebles, has died. He was 89.

“Sweet Sweetback” was a groundbreaking film a few times over. Van Peebles financed and released the film independently, paving the way for an entire ecosystem of indie cinema. Because he couldn’t afford a traditional marketing campaign, he used the film’s soundtrack album to build awareness for the movie. And most crucially, he proved that films by Black filmmakers about Black life in America could be a profitable endeavor, presaging the explosion in Blaxploitation cinema of the 1970s.