By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Iconic actor, writer and director Melvin Van Peebles has died at 89 years old.

“On behalf of the Van Peebles Family, The Criterion Collection and Janus Films are saddened to announce the, passing of American Cinema, Melvin Van Peebles, who died last night, at home with family, at the age of 89,” the Criterion Collection said in a statement.

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“In an unparalleled career distinguished by relentless innovation, boundless curiosity and spiritual empathy, Melvin Van Peebles made an incredible mark on the international cultural landscape through his films, novels, plays and music.”


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Peebles, best known for “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” was the father of actor and director Mario Van Peebles.

His work is being celebrated at the New York Film Festival this weekend with a 50th-anniversary screening of his landmark film “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” a Criterion Collection box set, “Melvin Van Peebles: Essential Films” next week, and a revival of his play “Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death” slated for a return to Broadway next year.

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“Dad knew that Black images matter,” Mario Van Peebles said in a statement to 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.”