85 Compelling Films Starring and/or Directed By Women of Color: A List Created by Director Ava DuVernay & Friends on Twitter


Image by Marie Maye, via Wikimedia Commons

If you follow film news—or really, just news—you’re well aware of the controversy surrounding the current crop of Academy Award nominees. While awards extravaganzas seem like little more than popularity contests, it is curious that neither the acclaimed lead actors nor the directors received nominations for two of the most popular films of the year—Creed and Straight Outta Compton. (See SNL’s satirical take on this.) There’s been no shortage of critical praise for the talent in those films and others, casting doubt on claims that actors, writers, directors, etc. of color simply weren’t up to snuff. The truth is likely more banal: most of the Academy voters are older white men. (“Older and more dude-heavy than just about any place in America,” says The Atlantic, “and whiter than all but seven states.”) No need to allege outright conspiracy when implicit bias operates to exclude people all the time without malicious intent.

Nor do corporate buzzwords like “diversity” carry much weight when it comes to creating a more inclusive industry. “It’s a medicinal word,” says Selma director Ava DuVernay, “that has no emotional resonance… Diversity’s like, ‘Ugh, I have to do diversity.'” No one wants to attend a “diversity training” or read a hiring manual about how to “do diversity”; recognizing talent shouldn’t be a forced, procedural matter, but a matter of course. The Academy has vowed to make changes by retiring many inactive members to non-voting emeritus status and—in an Orwellian turn of phrase—”doubling the number of diverse members” by 2020, whatever that means. The aforementioned DuVernay has been sowing seeds of discontent with the status quo for quite some time now, online and in the industry itself with her distribution company AFFRM+Array Releasing, which attempts to counterbalance the racial and gender disparities in the film world.

In a tweet last year, written off the cuff during a writing break, she put out a call to followers to “name three films you like with black, brown, native or Asian women leads” or directors. Indiewire comments that “it seems like common sense that these films exist,” yet “the question proved to be a serious challenge for Twitter.” Eventually, DuVernay and the Twitter denizens came up with a list of 85 titles starring and/or directed by women of color, and you can see them all listed below. If you find yourself watching movie after movie about the same kinds of experiences, maybe consider making your own viewing habits more “diverse” by checking out some of these excellent, and in most cases little-seen movies, including two well-reviewed films from DuVernay herself, 2010’s I Will Follow and 2012’s Middle of Nowhere.

“35 Shots of Rum” by Claire Denis (2008)
“A Different Image” by Alile Sharon Larkin (1982)
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” by Ana Lily Amirpour (2014)
“Advantageous” by Jennifer Phang (2015)
“Ala Modalaindi” by Nandini Bv Reddy (2011)
“All About You” by Christine Swanson (2001)
“Alma’s Rainbow” by Ayoka Chenzira (1994)
“Appropriate Behavior” by Desiree Akhavan (2014)
“B For Boy” by Chika Anadu (2013)
“Bande de Filles/Girlhood” by Céline Sciamma (2014)
“Belle” by Amma Asante (2013)
“Bend it Like Beckham” by Gurinder Chadha (2002)
“Bessie” by Dee Rees (2015)
“Beyond the Lights” by Gina Prince-Bythewood (2014)
“Bhaji on the Beach” by Gurinder Chadha (1993)
“Caramel” by Nadine Labaki  (2007)
“Circumstance” by Maryam Keshavarz (2011)
“Civil Brand” by Neema Barnette (2002)
“Compensation” by Zeinabu irene Davis (199)
“Daughters of the Dust” by Julie Dash (1991)
“Double Happiness ” by Mina Shum (1994)
“Down in the Delta” by Maya Angelou (1998)
“Drylongso” by Cauleen Smith (1988)
“Earth” by Deepa Mehta (1998)
“Elza” by Mariette Monpierre (2011)
“Endless Dreams” by Susan Youssef (2009
“Eve’s Bayou” by Kasi Lemmons (1997)
“Fire” by Deepa Mehta (1996)
“Frida” by Julie Taymor (2002)
“Girl in Progress” by Patricia Riggen (2012)
“Girlfight” by Karyn Kusama (2000)
“Habibi Rasak Kharban” by Susan Youssef (2011)
“Hiss Dokhtarha Faryad Nemizanand (Hush! Girls Don’t Scream)” by Pouran Derahkandeh (2013)
“Honeytrap” by Rebecca Johnson (2014)
“I Like It Like That” by Darnell Martin (1994)
“I Will Follow” by Ava DuVernay (2010
“In Between Days” by So-yong Kim (2006)
“Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” by Martha Coolidge (1999)
“It’s a Wonderful Afterlife” by Gurinder Chadha (2010)
“Jumpin Jack Flash” by Penny Marshall (1986)
“Just Another Girl on the IRT” by Leslie Harris (1992)
“Just Wright” by Sanaa Hamri (2010)
“Kama Sutra” by Mira Nair (1996)
“Losing Ground” by Kathleen Collins (1982)
“Love & Basketball” by Gina Prince-Bythewood (2000)
“Luck by Chance” by Zoya Akhtar (2009)
“Mi Vida Loca” by Allison Anders (1993)
“Middle of Nowhere” by Ava DuVernay (2012)
“Mississippi Damned” by Tina Mabry (2009)
“Mississippi Masala” by Mira Nair (1991)
“Mixing Nia” by Alison Swan (1998)
“Monsoon Wedding” by Mira Nair (2001)
“Mosquita y Mari” by Aurora Guerrero (2012)
“Na-moo-eobs-neun san (Treeless Mountain)” by So-yong Kim (2008)
“Night Catches Us” by Tanya Hamilton (2010)
“Pariah” by Dee Rees (2011)
“Picture Bride” by Kayo Hatta (1994)
“Rain” by Maria Govan (2008)
“Real Women Have Curves” by Patricia Cardoso (2002)
“Saving Face” by Alice Wu (2004)
“Second Coming” by Debbie Tucker Green (2014)
“Something Necessary” by Judy Kibinge (2013)
“Something New” by Sanaa Hamri (2006)
“Still the Water” by Naomi Kawase  (2014)
“Stranger Inside” by Cheryl Dunye (2001)
“Sugar Cane Alley/Black Shack Alley” by Euzhan Palcy (1983)
“The Kite” by Randa Chahal Sabag (2003)
“The Rich Man’s Wife” by Amy Holden Jones (1996)
“The Secret Life of Bees” by Gina Prince-Bythewood (2008)
“The Silence of the Palace” by Moufida Tlatli (1994)
“The Watermelon Woman” by Cheryl Dunye (1996)
“The Women of Brewster Place” by Donna Deitch (1989)
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Darnell Martin (2005)
“Things We Lost in the Fire” by Susanne Bier  (2007)
“Wadjda” by Haifaa Al-Mansour (2012)
“Water” by Deepa Mehta (2005)
“Whale Rider” by Niki Caro  (2002)
“What’s Cooking?” by Gurinder Chadha (2000)
“Where Do We Go Now?” by Nadine Labaki  (2011)
“Whitney” by Angela Bassett (2015)
“Woman Thou Art Loosed: On The 7th Day” by Neema Barnette (2012)
“Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl” by Joan Chen (1998)
“Yelling to the Sky” by Victoria Mahoney (2011)
“Young and Wild” by Marialy Rivas (2012)

via Indiewire

Related Content:

Spike Lee’s List of 95 Essential Movies – Now with Women Filmmakers

The 10 Greatest Films of All Time According to 358 Filmmakers

725 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc. 

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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