Peebles had ‘an unparalleled career distinguished by relentless innovation and boundless curiosity’
The cause of death has not been disclosed, but the director’s son, actor Mario Van Peebles, said his father died on Tuesday (21 September) at his home in Manhattan.
The Peebles family announced the news of the death in a joint statement with The Criterion Collection and Janus Films.
“We are saddened to announce the passing of a giant of American cinema, Melvin Van Peebles, who died last night, at home with family, at the age of 89. In an unparalleled career, Van Peebles made an indelible mark on the international cultural landscape. He will be deeply missed,” the statement read.
“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,” it added.
Several tributes poured in for “The Godfather of Black cinema” on social media.
“I am so saddened by the loss of my brother Melvin Van Peebles,” wrote American film director Spike Lee. “[He] brought independent black cinema to the forefront with his groundbreaking film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.”
“Melvin was a big supporter of my career. He even showed up to the set of Do The Right Thing. Damn, we have lost another giant! My condolences to the Peebles family,” Lee added.
Filmmaker Ava Du Verney shared a quote remembering Peebles: “‘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,” she added.
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“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,” shared American film director Barry Jenkins.
Actor David Alan Grier tweeted: “We’ve lost another lion, the true revolutionary, an artistic gangsta, cultural disrupter who forever changed the game. Rest in Peace Melvin Van Peebles.”
“Rest in Peace, Melvin Van Peebles. Godfather of Black cinema, Godfather of (all) American independent cinema, and so much more,” said film and TV producer Franklin Leonard.
“RIP Melvin Van Peebles, one of my favorite filmmakers, whose support changed my life when we met at a film festival 15 years ago. I will never forget him. Also, no one could rock a vest / no shirt look like him,” said director and screenwriter Jonathan Levine.
“Thank You, KING. It’s not only what you did but the times and circumstances you did them in. Dignified Innovator. A filmmaker who was the essence and embodiment of indy film in ‘struggle times’,” tweeted rapper MC Hammer.
“The beauty is you lived to see the fruits of your labour birth and feed many.”
American rapper Biz Markie described Peebles as “a genius auteur who sparked a revolution in Seventies Black cinema.”
Here are some more reactions from fans and the film industry below:
Peebles wrote books, plays and recorded several albums during his career.