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30.04.2019 Europe

Director John Singleton dies aged 51

World Robyn BECK / AFP
APR 30, 2019 EUROPE

Film director, screenwriter and producer John Singleton has died, aged 51, in Los Angeles. He was taken to hospital after suffering from a stroke on 17 April. His family said it was 'an agonising decision' to take him off life support .

"John passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family and friends," they said in a statement quoted by media including USA Today and NBC News.

Singleton rose to fame directing Boyz n the Hood in 1991 when he was only 22, straight out of film school.

Starring the rapper Ice Cube and Cuba Gooding Jr, the film described youth in the grip of violence in South Central Los Angeles, the bleak, gang-ridden neighbourhood where he grew up.

It won him Oscar nominations as best director and best original screenplay, and made him the youngest writer-director and first African American to achieve that distinction.

And it also won him special honours at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2002 the film was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress as a "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" film.

Tributes have poured in since his death was announced.

Ice Cube said in a statement: "Thank you John for being my friend, brother and mentor for 30 years. For believing in me when I was unsure of myself. Your passion for telling our stories from our point of view was more than an obsession, it was your mission in life.

"Your love for the black experience was contagious and I would never be the man I am without knowing you. On April 29, 1992 you were on TV warning the world what was to come. I'm sad today, cause on this April 29th who will warn the world what's to come. I love you and I miss you already brother."

Film director Spike Lee, via Instagram, praised Singleton: "With His Passion, His Heart, The Way He Talked About His Love For Cinema And Black Folks I Could See John Would Make It Happen. And He Did. From Day One."

Filmmaker Michael Moore, at the 50th anniversary gala at Film at Lincoln Center also paid tribute: "This thing we call the cinema is over 100 years old and like most things it was a white man's world. Women weren't allowed into it. African Americans weren't allowed into it, other people of color.

"The working class, we don't go to film school, but people like John Singleton did. They forced their way in so that millions of Americans would have a voice, and he is a pioneer and one of the people responsible for that." 

Singleton has many more films to his credit, including Poetic Justice (1993), Higher Learning (1995), the remake of "Shaft" (2000), Baby Boy (2001), "2 Fast 2 Furious" (2003) and Four Brothers (2005). His work on television included shows such as "Billions," "The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story" and "Empire." He co-created the television crime drama Snowfall.