Godfather of Black Cinema dies, Documentary Continues

Melvin Van Peebles

“God Father of Black Cinema”

Documentary Sweet Black Production

Continues In The Wake of His Death

courtesy ESP Public Relations


Melvin Van Peebles “The Godfather of Black Cinema” documentary film Sweet Black continues with production in light of the famed filmmaker’s unexpected death. The iconic filmmaker was 89.

The legendary director who brought us films that illuminated the black experience, including Sweet Sweetback’s Badaass Song, considered to be the movie that pioneered the blaxploitation sub-genre, passed away September 21 at his New York City home surrounded by his family. His son, acclaimed director/actor Mario Van Peebles made the announcement of his father’s death the next day via Instagram.

Los Angeles based Tanya and Philip Hart of Flying Free Films are co-producers of the documentary Sweet Black along with Sylvie Gautier of Pop Films located in Paris, France. Sweet Black is a feature documentary about the director, writer, actor and playwright Melvin Van Peebles, and it celebrates the 50th Anniversary of his industry game-changing film Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song which debuted in 1971.

Catherine Bernstein and Martine Delumeau are the writers and directors. Jerome Colin is director of photography for the film.

Phil and Tanya Hart were in the middle of producing Sweet Black when they received word of Melvin Van Peebles’ passing. They had completed an interview with famed director Reggie Hudlin and were preparing to interview with actor/director Bill Duke.  Phil Hart recounts, “I was in the midst of being interviewed by our crew from Paris   about my experience of attending the March 31, 1971, premiere of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadaaasss Song at the Grand Circus movie theater in Detroit.  At the time I was a graduate student and activist at Michigan State University.

On September 16 our crew was at Melvin’s apartment in Manhattan where we interviewed his sons Mario and Max and his grandchildren Mandela and Marguerite.   Each read an excerpt from Melvin’s diary.

Phil and Tanya Hart are both excited and saddened as they enter post-production on Sweet Black, “We are so pleased to be on the team that is telling the story of The Godfather of Black Cinema” Melvin Van Peebles with permission from and participation by the Van Peebles family.  Rest In Peace and Power Melvin Van Peebles.”

Sweet Black will air in March 2022 on ARTE TV in France, Germany and the EU.  Soon thereafter it will air in the US.