Melvin Van Peebles, influential actor and writer, dies aged 89

Melvin Van Peebles, the influential filmmaker behind “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” and father of director and actor Mario Van Peebles, has died. He was 89. note: Petite sœur 2021 Film Complet

“Dad knew that Black images matter,” Mario Van Peebles said in a statement from the Criterion Collection. “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.” note: Sans un bruit 2 2021 Film Complet

“Sweet Sweetback” will be screened at the New York Film Festival this week for a 50th anniversary tribute. “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 Criterion Collection said. note: Shang-Chi 2021 Film Complet

Melvin and Mario Van Peebles teamed on the 1989 film “Identity Crisis,” with Melvin directing and Mario scripting and starring as a rapper possessed by the soul of a dead fashion designer. Melvin appeared in the 1993 Mario Van Peebles-directed “Posse,” in which Mario also starred, as well as in Mario’s Black Panther drama “Panther” (1995), with Melvin adapting the script from his own novel, the Mario Van Peebles-directed “Love Kills (1998) and the Mario-directed “Redemption Road” (2010). note: Space Jam : Nouvelle ère 2021 Film Complet

Melvin Van Peebles also acted in the work of others, appearing in the 1991 feature comedy “True Identity”; Reginald Hudlin’s Eddie Murphy vehicle “Boomerang” (1992); big-budget Arnold Schwarzenegger action film “Last Action Hero” (1993); Charlie Sheen action film “Terminal Velocity” (1994); 2003 comedy “The Hebrew Hammer,” in which Melvin reprised the role of Sweetback and Mario also appeared; and Tina Gordon Chism’s 2013 romantic comedy “Peeples,” in which he played Grandpa Peeples. note: The Guilty 2021 Film Complet

In 1988 Mario Van Peebles starred in the brief NBC sitcom “Sonny Spoon,” about a private detective, in which his father was also a series regular as the private eye’s bar-owning father. On TV he also made guest appearances on series including “In the Heat of the Night,” “Dream On,” “Living Single” and “Homicide: Life on the Street.”

In “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” which Van Peebles wrote and directed, dedicating the film to “all of the Black brothers and sisters who have had enough of the Man,” Van Peebles starred as the title character, an orphan — portrayed as a child by Van Peebles’ son Mario — raised in a California bordello, where he does menial tasks and grows up to appear in live sex shows there; one day he’s told to ride along with two crooked detectives, who collect protection money from the whorehouse and elsewhere, and they end up beating a Black militant. Sweetback finally decides he’s had enough and attacks the cops, saving the Black militant; from that point the film focuses on Sweetback’s flight to the Mexican border. note: The Kissing Booth 3 2021 Film Complet

Van Peebles employed a variety of interesting effects, including a great deal of hand-held work “to help express the paranoid nightmare that the fugitive’s life had become,” according to the book “The 50 Most Influential Black Films: A Celebration of African-American Talent, Determination, and Creativity.”

Produced on a total budget of $500,000, “Sweetback” saw box office of $10 million, according to “The 50 Most Influential Black Films”; a few months after, the studio-made, Gordon Parks-directed “Shaft,” starring Richard Roundtree, was released and became a significant success. note: The suicide squad 2021 Film Complet

“Sweetback” and “Shaft,” together with the following year’s “Superfly,” directed by Gordon Parks Jr., are generally regarded as having together given birth to the Blaxploitation genre.

Van Peebles, however, was critical of many Blaxploitation films for being devoid of political content.

Columbia had offered Van Peebles a three-picture contract on the strength of his previous film “Watermelon Man,” but neither Columbia nor any other other studio would finance the film project that would become “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” so he did so himself; Bill Cosby loaned him $50,000 to complete the project. note: Venom 2 2021 Film Complet

The soundtrack to the film, featuring Earth, Wind & Fire, was released prior to the film itself in order to generate publicity and word of mouth.

When “Sweetback” drew an X rating from the MPAA, Van Peebles cleverly transformed this significant hindrance to any film’s box office prospects into an advertising tagline that played well with his target audience — “Rated X by an all white jury” — and declared, “Should the rest of the community submit to your censorship that is its business, but White standards shall no longer be imposed on the Black community.”

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