Indie filmmaker and pioneering blaxploitation auteur Melvin Van Peebles (Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song, Watermelon Man, Classified X) has passed at age 89. Due respect and condolences to family, friends, fans and colleagues. A breakthrough artist and a go-his-own-way giant among black directors in the ’60s and’70s, Van Peebles paved the way for many who followed in his wake. He also wrote four novels, at least one respected play (La Fête à Harlem) and a collection of short stories; also a smart Wall Street investor. Melvin was the father of actor-director Mario Van Peebles.