Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What a time for black filmmakers!

'Fruitvale Station'
It doesn't matter if Hollywood doesn't notice. It doesn't matter if the critics don't notice (though I believe they do). It doesn't matter if general audiences don't notice. The fact is that it's happening... and because it's happening one can't help but feel hopeful for the future, in spite of everything.

Quality black directors are on the rise, and have been for the past several years (at least). I feel fortunate to have started this blog when I did so that I could help chart the rise, because it's encouraging to see that more of these filmmakers are not only getting in the game, but are making films of great skill, sensitivity and passion that speak to the black experience today.

'Middle of Nowhere'
Much of the credit for helping to get some of their recent films noticed, of course, has to go to new Academy member Ava DuVernay and AFFRM. By devising a new distribution system for black films that gets them seen in major-market multiplexes, side-by-side with the Hollywood blockbusters, the audience for films like Alrick Brown's Kinyarwanda and Andrew Dosunmu's Restless City has expanded beyond what they could expect from an art house release. 

And it has led to bigger things. I mentioned that Dosunmu's follow-up, Mother of George, was a sell-out when it played BAMCinemaFest in Brooklyn last month. Also, DuVernay herself, after a modest success with writing and directing I Will Follow, broke out into stardom last fall with Middle of Nowhere.

'Mother of George'
This renaissance includes more than just the AFFRM movies, though. Lee Daniels, Geoffrey Fletcher, Dee Rees, Steve McQueen - all these filmmakers are making their mark and in many cases, are getting noticed. The black film canon of the 21st century is way more than Tyler Perry and Spike Lee now, and there's more to come. 

Later this month will see the release of Neil Drumming's Big Words, the latest AFFRM-distributed film, and Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale Station, which is being poised as a major Oscar contender out of the Weinstein Company camp. And I just read the other day that Eve's Bayou director Kasi Lemmons has a new film coming out this fall!

If there's one thing that I would wish for, however, that would be greater genre diversity. It's something I've written about before, in relation to AFFRM, but I believe it will happen as long as this wave continues to flourish - and indeed, we're already seeing it. Fletcher's Violet & Daisy was a crime picture, for example. Anthony Hemingway's Red Tails was a war movie (you know, the George Lucas-produced one), and Lemmons' new one will be a musical. And Tim Story does have those two Fantastic Four movies...

The days of Soul Plane are, if not over, then numbered at the very least!


  1. Thank you for pointing me in the direction of movies I might miss out on in my preoccupation with older films.

    1. You're welcome! There have been times where I've thought about switching to all-classics, all the time, but there's always gonna be something new I'm gonna wanna write about, especially if it's a smaller film, and double especially if it's a small black film. So... yeah.

  2. I am called out by this! I need to add these films to my list. Reading this makes me feel like my usual fare is a little...monochromatic.

  3. I just think of it as spotlighting films that don't have million-dollar marketing budgets but deserve to be seen anyway.


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