Part icon, part iconoclast, MELV IN VAN PEEBLES is a filmmaker with a history that’s as fascinating as any of his motion pictures. This playful documentary (full of rare archival footage and unforgettable backstage stories from Spike Lee, Mario Van Peebles, Gil Scott-Heron and others) is a carefully crafted tale of how a young black kid from Chicago ended up making one of the most controversial independent films in American history.
Director Joe Angio traces Van Peebles’s remarkable path from atom-bomb-ferrying Air Force pilot to French novelist to proto-rap singer to Wall Street options trader with some of these same circuitous journeys helping to explain where Sweet Sweetback actually go his song. “A genuinely inspiring portrait of a man who has steadfastly refused to acknowledge or respect boundaries, whether of race, nationality, language, talent, age or any thing else”
Honoured with the French Legion of Honor in 2001, the 2000 Acapulco Black Film Festival’s Best International Film Award for Le Conte du ventre plein (aka Bellyful, 2000), the 1999 Chicago Underground Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the 1987 Children’s Live-Action Humanitas Prize for The Day They Came to Arrest The Book, a 1972 Tony Award nomination for “Don’t Play Us Cheap”, two 1971 Tony Award nominations for “Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death”, along with a Grammy Award nomination and Drama Desk Award for this earlier musical, Melvin Van Peebles is more than a one-note film director.