Melvin Van Peebles is a genius; that's a fact, not a compliment. If it were a compliment, I'd have used an exclamation point at the end of that sentence, and I'm really not a big enough fan of his work to do so. What I am, though, is an admirer of his aptitude and hard work, both of which are prominently displayed in the documentary How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It), a phenomenal outline of the man's prolific and varied life, directed by Joe Angio.
Van Peebles is best known for Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song, a surprise hit from 1971, which he wrote, directed, produced, scored, edited and starred in. The low-budget film set records for independent cinema, served as the primary inspiration for its decade's blaxploitation genre, and it became a major influence on today's African-American filmmakers, particularly Spike Lee. Two years ago its notoriety was given another boost, as its production was immortally dramatized in a movie made by Melvin's son Mario Van Peebles, entitled Baadasssss!