Melvin Van Peebles

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

He is most famous for creating the acclaimed film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, which heralded a new era of African American focused films. He is the father of actor and director Mario Van Peebles.

Van Peebles began writing about his experiences as a cable car driver. What evolved from an initially small article and a series of photographs was Van Peebles' first book, The Big Heart.

One day, a passenger suggested that Van Peebles should become a filmmaker. He shot his first short film, Pickup Men for Herrick, in 1957. He made two more short films during the same period.

He published four novels and one story collection in French and made another short film, Cinq cent balles (1965). It was here that he made his first feature length film, The Story of a Three-Day Pass (La Permission) (1968), which caught the attention of Hollywood producers who mistook him for a French auteur. His first Hollywood film was the 1970 Columbia Pictures comedy Watermelon Man, written by Herman Raucher. The movie told the story of a casually racist white man who suddenly wakes up black and finds himself alienated from his friends, family and job. In 1970 Van Peebles was also to direct filming of the Powder Ridge Rock Festival, which was banned by court injunction.