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

by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (2)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.