Washington (AFP)

American writer and director Melvin Van Peebles, pioneer of "Blaxploitation", whose avant-garde film "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song" inspired younger generations of black filmmakers, has died at the age of 89.

"We are saddened to announce the passing of a giant of American cinema, Melvin Van Peebles, who died last night (the night of Tuesday to Wednesday), at his home with his family, at the age of 89. his son, actor Mario Van Peebles, and film distribution company Criterion Collection said in a statement.

"During a unique career, Mr. Van Peebles has left an indelible mark on the global cultural landscape. He will be sorely missed."

"Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song," released in 1971, is a low budget film about a man in pornographic shows who kills two racist police officers for beating up a Black Panthers activist.

With this innovative work in both substance and form, Melvin Van Peebles ushered in the era of "Blaxploitation" and inspired many younger directors, such as Spike Lee and Barry Jenkins.

“I didn't even know I had a heritage,” he told The New York Times in 2010. “I do what I want to do”.

"Sweet Sweetback", which he wrote, directed and financed, and in which he stars, had only been released in two theaters but thanks to word of mouth it ended up making $ 10 million, making highest-grossing independent film in history at the time, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

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