Melvin Van Peebles has died at the age of 89.
The influential filmmaker was the man behind the ’70s blaxploitation film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song.
He was the father of director and actor Mario Van Peebles.
Mario paid a poignant tribute to his dad in a statement from the Criterion Collection. “Dad knew that Black images matter,” he said.
“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.”
Melvin’s film Sweet Sweetback is set to be shown at this week’s New York Film Festival to mark 50 years since it was created.
The Criterion Collection said: “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.”
Melvin was considered by many to be the godfather of modern Black cinema and directed other films such as Watermelon Man in 1970, which was a racial satire starring Godfrey Cambridge as a bigoted white insurance salesman who goes to the bathroom in his suburban home one night and discovers he’s Black.
At the time of its release, there were very few African-American directors in Hollywood.
He also directed movies such as Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death, Don’t Play Us Cheap! and Identity Crisis.
Melvin starred alongside his son Mario in the 1993 film titled Posse.
As well as directing, Melvin appeared in many movies, including Jaws: The Revenge, Reginald Hudlin’s Boomerang, Last Action Hero and The Hebrew Hammer.
On the small screen, he made appearances on the likes of All My Children, In the Heat of the Night and Girlfriends.
He won a Daytime Emmy and a Humanitas Prize in 1987 for writing an episode of a CBS Schoolbreak Special titled The Day They Came to Arrest the Books.
Fans of the star took to social media on Wednesday to pay their respects.
Filmaker Ava DaVernay wrote on Twitter: ““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.”
Director Matthew A Cherry also took to Twitter and said: “Damn. Rest In Peace Melvin Van Peebles. The blueprint and inspiration for multiple generations of filmmakers. A whole legend.”