Beast of Southern Wild has garnered a great amount of attention lately, mostly because of its charismatic lead character Quevenzhane Wallis. She is spunky, adventurous, and has the spirit of a lion. She is the magic of film. Which is probably one of the reasons the film won top awards at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012 and was nominated for several Academy Awards. However, as was brought to my attention by a very wise person, like so many other films this film was not directed by a black person. In fact, the director of the film is Ben Zeitlin, a very white man from queens New York, which may or may not have contributed to the films mass appraisal and appeal. But this is besides the point.
During this same year, there was another film presented at the Sundance Film Festival that won the Best Director award at Sundance and it was an African American woman who directed the film. So now my question is why do more people no about Beast of Southern Wild and less about Middle of Nowhere? Therefore I decided to uncover 6 black female directors who I feel deserve our attention and support. With that being said, let’s start with the mistakenly over looked Ava DuVernay.
Ava DuVernay has been pretty busy in recent years. She has directed three music documentaries: “My Mic Sounds Nice,” “Essence Music Festival 2010,” and “Faith Through the Storm.” In 2010, she directed the film I Will Follow which gained critical acclaim. She is the first African American woman to win the Best Director Award at Sundance for her film Middle of Nowhere which is a story about the experiences of a woman who has lost her husband to prison. In the midst of all this, she is also the founder of AFFRM (African American Film Festival Releasing Movement) which seeks to empower black independent filmmakers. She is definitely on the come up and I can’t wait to check out her film.
So I have always liked Love & Basketball and have had a freakish obsession with Disappearing Acts, so you can imagine my surprise when I found out they were both directed by the same person. And it was a Black woman!!! Maybe, that is why I could always relate with Sanaa’s characters (especially Zora’s). Gina Prince-Bythewood’s skills are undeniable. Her talent for capturing an authentic depiction of the complex intricacies of black love is impeccable and always puts me through it. A graduate from UCLA film school, Prince-Bythewood has also done work for shows like A Different World, Felicity, and South Central and was the writer and director for The Secret Life of Bees.
Angela Robinson is next on the list and she has been in the business since 1995. Robinson directed the popular Showtime show The L Word from 2004-2009. Another interesting fact is that she directed the 2005 Walt Disney film Herbie: Fully Loaded starring Lindsay Lohan. She also earned numerous accolades and awards for her short film D.E.B.S in 2003 which follows the relationship between a young lesbian couple and explores issues of sexuality and identity. Currently, Robinson is the director of Charlie’s Angels 2011 and is a writer for True Blood.
Amma Asante takes on the issues of racism and xenophobia in her directorial debut A Way of Life 2004. A British film director of Ghanaian descent, Asante won the BAFTA award for Outstanding Debut by a British Director for the film. What I like about Asante is that she is not afraid to take risks and is able to provide a critique on the complexities of racial tensions in the UK. Asante’s latest project is called Belle, a film that tackles the issues of mixed race identity in 18th century England which is set to be released late 2013.
Eve’s Bayou. Now this was movie that haunted me throughout my childhood days. It is one of those movies that is rich in content that is brought to life by a great cast, especially Jurnee Smollett and Meagan Good. The mastermind behind this work is the creative Kasi Lemmons. Lemmons was an actress first having appeared in films such as School Daze, Silence of the Lambs, and Gridlock‘d. What began as a collection of Lemmon’s childhood memories, Eve’s Bayou manifested into venerable piece of work which the explores the tragedy, strength, and love of a black southern family.
Last but certainly not least is rising star Nikyatu Jusu. A graduate from NYU with a MFA in filmmaking, Jusu has already earned Director’s Guild Honorable Mention, HBO Short Film Award, and JT3 Artist Award for her short film, African Booty Scratcher, according to Clutch magazine. The film follows a young Sierra Leonean American girl who struggles to identify with both her mother’s culture and American culture. What is great about this short film is that it explores the duality of identities that most minorities experience living in America. Also, it serves as a great starting point to discuss my favorite topic which is this love-hate relationship between Africans and African Americans. Check out what she had to say at African Women in Cinema.
And that concludes my list of black female filmmakers to look out for. Please show these ladies your support and check out their work. They are proof that quality films representing an authentic black experience do in fact exist. If I missed any of your favorites, please shout them out in the comments section.