Melvin Van Peebles will always be known as the man who not only changed the face of black cinema, but independent cinema forever, when he made his groundbreaking (and taboo breaking) film “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.” But’s he’s always been a lot more than that, as a playwright, actor, author, stage performer, musician and who knows what else he’s done in his 80 years. And he’s likely not through yet.
But how did a guy who grew up on the hard streets of the South side of Chicago go from there to becoming a filmmaker, a Tony-nominated playwright, an Air Force navigator, a novelist in two languages, a pioneer of the rap genre, and a floor trader at the American Stock Exchange among other things? Well, those questions and more were answered in the 2005 documentary film by filmmaker Joe Angio, titled “How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It).”
Taking the title from a never published essay by Van Peebles, the film follows his unpredictable life and career, both supported by his motto: if opportunity fails to knock, then build your own damn door and get on with it. The film includes decades of archival footage and interviews with a wide range of people, including Spike Lee, the late Gil Scott-Heron, Elvis Mitchell, the late pioneering filmmaker St. Clair Bourne and Van Peebles’ own sons, Mario and Max.
The film is a “glorious commemoration of Melvin Van Peebles and his indefatigable spirit and artistry, and a playfully candid chronicle of the life he has lived, all presented with a verve that mirrors the unending creativity of the man himself,” says the press release.
And now, after many years, “How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It)” will soon be re-released on DVD by Music Box Films Home Entertainment on Feb 2.
In addition, the DVD will include new never-before-seen extra features including a new video Interview with Van Peebles, three of his satirical news commentaries and a pair of live concert performances.
Here’s the trailer re-release trailer from Music Box: