It’s been awhile since I updated this list, which I initially created last summer, 2010. Much has happened since then, and a few more names need to be added that weren’t on the first draft.
It’s something that I plan on doing periodically (once or twice annually at most) – an udated list of up-and-coming black filmmakers, working mostly outside the mainstream; something we could call “black filmmakers to watch,” preceded by a year, not-so unlike Filmmaker magazine’s annual “25 New Faces of Independent Film” list.
As I’ve already made known, I’m not necessarily a fan of lists, especially ranked lists where the arts are concerned.
However, I do see SOME value in providing black cinema enthusiasts like yourselves (or cinema enthusiasts regardless of race) with the names of noteworthy black filmmakers who may otherwise go unnoticed by the the mainstream press, and even indie film publications. We’re celebrating those black filmmakers – propping them up, you could say. If a site like ours doesn’t do that, we certainly can’t complain when more prominent media outlets don’t. Not that we’re not already supportive of fledgling black talent; we’ve been doing that since the site’s beginnings. This is just a more concentrated effort.
Now, here’s the challenge: even though I’d like to think that we have our fingers on the pulse of all that is indie black cinema, we don’t; so there very well could be a few “noteworthy” black filmmakers out there I’ve never heard of, for one reason or another. And that’s where you all come in! The goal is to make this a collaborative effort – at least initially.
First, when I update the list, I’ll likely only consider those who were active in the previous 12 months.
I’ll insist that they are indeed up-and-comers, meaning, they may have a few short films on their resumes, and even a feature, or two; but, no filmmakers who’ve been working since 1999, with 6 feature films to their credit, for example.
I should add that “up-and-comers” doesn’t necessarily mean young-in-age. There are certainly those who are discovering the medium at later life stages.
Also, it’ll be great if they are “active,” and are continuously working on projects, whatever they are. So, don’t name a filmmaker who made a film in 2008, enjoyed some success with it, but doesn’t appear to have been involved in anything else since then.
It’ll be great if they have work that is readily accessible, whether online, on DVD, or in some other format that the rest of us can obtain; or at least exits, and be on its way to an accessible format.
Their films would have played at top-tier film festivals, screening series, etc, and/or, have been acquired for distribution, or received some notable recognition.
And, lastly, I’m not just looking for black American up-and-comers; granted most of us, and the majority of our readers reside in the US of A (myself included), and we cover mostly black American cinema; but this needs to be a Diasporic collection. It’ll be a challenge, but so what, right?
If anything, this should also hopefully encourage filmmakers to maintain some sort of public profile, or keep us abreast of what they’re up to, so that we can stay informed, and in turn, inform others.
In the list below, you’ll find mostly young filmmakers whose works I’ve already seen enough of, that I obviously see value in, and whom I really hope will be given opportunities (or are able to create opportunities for themselves that will allow them) to continue to create in the future. Also, they all appear to be enjoying some degree of success, via notable film festival play, award & grant wins, program selections, distributor pickups, attracting names to their projects, etc. And I’m only going back about 1 year.
AGAIN, this isn’t a final list, so don’t send me emails, or leave comments cursing me for not including a name :) As I said, this is meant to be a collective effort, with you folks providing the necessary checks and balances making sure there are no significant omissions on my part. Your additions will help solidify it! Though, I should reiterate, this isn’t a name-every-black-filmmaker-with-a-film-list, hence the above criteria to help narrow it down.
So, without further ado, here you go, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER; In parentheses are their works, along with any notable mentions:
– Thomas Ikimi (Legacy, debuted in the US at Tribeca 2010, won feature film grand prize award at ABFF 2010, recently picked up for theatrical distribution by CodeBlack Entertainment, limited theatrical release, now on DVD; currently working on second feature)
– Tanya Hamilton (Night Catches Us, Sundance selection 2010, plus numerous other notable festivals, picked up for distribution by Magnolia; limited theatrical, now on home video; currently working on second feature)
– Rashad Ernesto Green (Multiple short film award winner; feature-film debut, Gun Hill Road, Sundance 2011 selection; picked up for distribution, currently touring the world)
– Wanuri Kahiu (A Focus Features Africa First grant recipient in 2008, her sci-fi short film Pumzi, made quite a splash on the festival circuit, starting at Sundance; also has a feature film under her belt, titled From a Whisper, a Kenyan drama that received 12 nominations and won 5 awards at the African Movie Academy Awards in 2009; currently prepping to direct adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, produced by Kisha Cameron-Dingle, of Focus Features Africa First Program)
– Nikyatu Jusu (2 short films, multiple award-winning African Booty Scratcher & Spike Lee Grant funded thesis film Say Grace Before Drowning, both festival-played, and both picked up by HBO; Inaugural Shadow And Act Filmmaker Challenge winner for her short, Black Swan Theory; working on feature film debut)
– Dee Rees (Acclaimed award-winning short film, Pariah, turned into award-winning feature-length film; debuted at Sundance 2011; acquired by Focus Features for a fall 2011 release; signed by UTA).
– Julius Onah (Feature film debut, The Girl Is In Trouble, starring Columbus Short, and executive produced by Spike Lee, currently in post-production; likely Toronto Film Festival 2011 debut; his short film The Boundary, which stars Alexander Siddig (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) was designated by Amnesty International as one of its “Movies That Matter“, it screened world wide, and eventually aired on HBO).
– Ava DuVernay (narrative feature film debut I Will Follow, a critical and commercial success, released in 2011 via groundbreaking independent AFFRM collective, also spearheaded by Ms DuVernay; documentarian whose most recent work, My Mic Sounds Nice, debuted on BET in 2010).
– Keith Davis (A Sundance Writers and Directors Lab fellow for his feature film script The American People; his short film, Surface of Things, screened at dozens of festivals. Recently edited three short documentary pieces for Spike Lee. Just completed short film, Men In Love, prepping for festival run).
– Barry Jenkins (Debut feature, Medicine For Melancholy debuted at SXSW 2008, played several other prominent festivals, picked up for distribution by IFC Films; nominated and/or won awards at Gotham, Indie Spirit, San Francisco Film Critics Circle, others;since then, commissioned to make short films for Bloomingdales, ITVS Futurestates, and Miami Arts Collective Borscht)
– Qasim Basir (debut feature film MOOZ-lum, starring Nia Long, Evan Ross, Danny Glover and others, successfully released independently to much acclaim; film has been travelling the world, and continues to play to demanding audiences, since its debut in late summer 2010.
– Djo Tunda Wa Munga (Congo-Kinshasan filmmaker whose latest effort, the genre gangster flick Viva Riva!, has taken the world by storm, introducing the globe to his talents, since its debut at the Toronto Film Festival in late 2010. Already gearing up for next film – a cop thriller set in Congo-Kinshasa).
– Matthew Cherry (Directed music videos for Kindred The Family Soul, Jazmine Sullivan, Common, Bilal and others; his short film This Time, starring Reagan Gomez, played successfully on the film festival circuit nationwide; currently fundraising for feature film debut, The Last Fall)
– Moon Molson (Award-winning filmmaker with 2 critically acclaimed short films (Pop Foul & Crazy Beats Strong Every Time) that, combined, have played film festivals all over the world – major and minor – picking up trophies along the way; next up – feature film debut).
– Richard Ayoade (British, Norwegian, Nigerian filmmaker, featured in 2009 list of UK Stars of Tomorrow; feature film debut, Submarine, debuted at Toronto late 2010, acquired by the Weinstein Company for summer 2011 release; currently developing 2 follow-up feature films).
– Rodney Evans (winner of numerous filmmaker awards, grants and fellowships, feature film debut and recipient of IFP Gordon Parks Award, Brother To Brother, won Sundance Grand Jury Prize in 2004 (and several other awards), enjoyed theatrical release, and now on DVD, recently completed short film Billy And Aaron, screened at Tribeca and Outfest 2010, is currently fundraising for his 2nd feature, The Happy Sad).
– Alrick Brown (Feature film debut, Kinyarwanda, debuted at Sundance 2011, where it won the World Cinema Audience Award; currently on the film festival circuit, seeking distribution).
– Aaron Woolfolk (Feature film debut, The Harimaya Bridge played festivals all over the world; limited theatrical release throughout 2010; coming soon to DVD; working on second feature length project).
– Aaron Burns (Feature film debut, Blacktino, debuted at SXSW 2011; continuing to play film festival circuit, seeking distribution).
– Brandon Harris (An editor for Filmmaker magazine, 2 festival-played short films on his resume, Happiness Is No Fun and Evangeleo; currently in post-production for his feature film debut, Redlegs)
– Victoria Mahoney (Her feature debut, Yelling To The Sky, debuted at the Berlin Film Festival this year, has been the recipient of numerous awards, Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters and Directors Labs, the annual Creative Producing Lab, the Mark Silverman Maryland Film Fellowship, and the presitigious Annenberg Film Fellowship; the film stars Zoe Kravitz, Tim Blake Nelson, Gabourey Sidibe, and several others).
– Tiny Mabry (2008 IFP Directors Lab fellow for her feature-film debut, Mississippi Damned, which has screened at numerous film festivals, locally and abroad, winning Audience and Jury awards in several of them; it was also the first recipient of a Film Independent grant; named the 2010 James Baldwin Fellow, receiving a United States Artist Fellowship)
– A. Sayeeda Clarke (Along with Barry Jenkins, commissioned to write and direct short films for ITVS Futurestates series; hers, titled White, premiered just a few weeks ago; has 2 other short films on resume, plus TV work).
– Sam Kessie (London-born, Ghana-raised & now Atlanta-based filmmaker; recently completed documentary on former Ghanaian world-championship boxer, Azumah Nelson, titled Zoom Zoom – The Professor; film was selected by National Geographic’s “2011 Women Hold Up Half The Sky Series,” which features works by “trailblazing female filmmakers.”)
– Andrew Dosumnu (Nigerian/New York-based fashion photographer by day, who began his career as design assistant in the couture department for Yves Saint; delectable feature film debut Restless City, debuted at Sundance 2011; currently seeking distribution).
– Tina Gordon Chism (Feature film debut We the Peeples, starring Kerry Washington, David Alan Grier and others, produced by Tyler Perry’s 34th Street Films, will debut this year, 2011; past credits include penning screenplay for Drumline)
– Leila Djansi (Ghanaian-American filmmaker whose latest feature film Sinking Sands won 3 trophies at the 2011 African Movie Academy Awards; currently in production on next film, Ties That Bind, a multi-million dollar production co-starring Kimberly Elise, shooting on location in Ghana).
– Nzingha Stewart (Notable music video director, short filmmaker, was originally to direct For Colored Girls Film adaptation based on her own script, before Tyler Perry stepped in; in 2010 formed production entity with Gabrielle Union with emphasis on making films about black women).
– K. Lorrel Manning (feature film debut Happy new Year, a 2008 Sundance Lab Finalist, premiered at SXSW 2011; also a playwright, his works have been developed at theatres throughout New York City, one of which was awarded the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) fellowship).
Alright! That was actually a bit of work there… I’m pleased that I was able to come up with this many names, considering how often discussion settles on how there supposedly aren’t many black filmmakers creating promising, noteworthy work. They’re out there… they just need the MONEY to turn their vivid ideas into films you and I can see!
If I didn’t mention your name, relax! It’s not a final, definitive list, aight? Don’t throw rocks at me. Although, I think I’ve included the vast majority of names we’ve been talking about in the last 12 months, and will probably continue to talk about in the next year.
If you’re a filmmaker whose name IS mentioned, and I said anything about you or your work that is incorrect, please let me know, and I’ll correct it. Or if there’s anything noteworthy that should be added, let me know that as well. You can post comments below, or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you aren’t already familiar with any of the filmmakers and films on the list above, do yourself a favor and check each of them out, as well as their work. Many of them are readily accessible via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
I’ll now turn it over to the rest of you to contribute your own selections – specifically, names that I didn’t mention above, that you think should be, that fit the criteria I listed at the top of this post.
Have at it – who am I missing? And please be constructive!