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How to Eat Watermelon in White Company

January 20, 2006

DELAWARE, Ohio -- The long and chronicled career of Melvin Van Peebles '53 is profiled in the documentary "How to Eat Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It)" which opens today at the Film Forum in New York City.

The film will be on the schedule at the 42nd annual Chicago International Film Festival in October.

The documentary attempts characterize the life of the man best known for 1971 release of "Sweet Sweetback's BadAsssss Song," "How to Eat Watermelon in White Company" is named after an unreleased essay written by Van Peebles during his astonishing and varied career. Beyond being an all-star filmmaker, Van Peebles has also served as an Air Force navigator, a San Francisco cable car operator, a novelist in both French and English, a composer, a recording artist, a floor trader at the American Stock Exchange, and a television commentator. Van Peebles has more than 26 acting credits, more than 16 writing credits, more than 13 directing credits, and nine producing credits according to the Internet Movie Database.

However, the film goes beyond that to show Van Peebles as a father -- including son and actor Mario Van Peebles, lover, political provocateur, artist, businessman, trickster and intellectual.

New York Times reviewer A.O. Scott writes, "Those qualities certainly come through in How to Eat Your Watermelon, which intersperses archival clips with recent interviews with Mr. Van Peebles and various friends, relations, collaborators and critics. The story that emerges is a fascinating historical document."