Melvin Van Peebles, who died Sept. 21, was best known for his 1971 film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. He spoke with Fresh Air in 1990. His son Mario, also an actor/director, was interviewed in 2004.
The African American film director is best known for Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, which added a political dimension to the black action movie genre. Van Peebles says that, unlike his own work, the blaxploitation films that came later were apologies for systems of oppression, not critiques of them. Prior to his career in film, he lived in France as a writer. His new book, coauthored by his son Mario, is called No Identity Crisis.
His new film is Baadasssss! It's the story of the making of 1971 classic Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. In the film, Mario Van Peebles plays his father, director Melvin Van Peebles. Mario got his start directing and starring in the film New Jack City. Other acting credits include the role of Malcolm X in the film Ali, and a role in Ten Thousand Black Men Named George, about the unionization of Pullman train porters.