7 Amazing Black Movie Directors You Probably Didn’t Know

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For a long time, Hollywood produced movies for white audiences that stereotyped black people. The primary reason was the lack of black movie directors who could tell accurate stories of black people. That changed and today, black audiences have films that resonate with their experiences. 

Film and television have become diverse thanks to the black directors who are conscious that their work is important in changing perceptions and influencing positive change. These are the black movie directors you should know.

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John Singleton

spotcovery-american film director John Singleton
John Singleton. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-2.0

Singleton began his career on a high. His first film ‘Boyz n the Hood’ earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director. He was the first African American and youngest to receive a nomination. 

Other films he made include Poetic Justice, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Four Brothers, and others. Singleton’s film revolves around the experiences of African Americans. He often cast musicians and rappers and began using rap music instead of rock which was the norm in the early 2000s.

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Julie Dash

Julie Dash advises aspiring filmmakers. Video Credit: careergirls

You can’t talk about black movie directors without mentioning Julie Dash. She not only played a big role in opening up spaces for black people in the industry, but also paved the way for women. 

She was part of the L.A. Rebellion, a group of the first African American students who studied film at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). After, she engaged in projects meant to battle the stereotypes in the film business. 

This led to the creation of the film Daughters of Dust, the first directed by an African American woman to be released in the theatre in the United States. Due to its cultural significance, the film was placed in the National Film Registry. 

Dash’s other works include Diary of an African Nun, Four Women, Women of the Movement, and others.  

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Sara Gomez

7 Amazing Black Movie Directors You Probably Didn’t Know
Cuban filmmaker Sara Gomez. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-4.0

Sara Gomez is one of the earliest black movie directors in Cuba. During her lifetime, she was the only female director in Cuba. She used her platform to tell stories of Afro-Cubans and highlighted women’s, racial, and gender discrimination issues. 

In 1974, Gomez directed the De Cierta Manera (One Way or Another) and remained the first and only black Cuban woman to direct a feature-length film produced by the Instituto Cubano Del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos

The film revolves around the themes Gomez explored, race, gender, and social class. Apart from that, she made other short films like: 

  • Una Isla para Miguel (An Island for Miguel)
  • Poder local 
  • Poder Popular (Local Power, Popular Power).

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Souleymane Cissé

7 Amazing Black Movie Directors You Probably Didn’t Know
Malian film director Cisse Souleymane. Source: Wikimedia licensed by  CC-BY-SA-2.0

Cisse is regarded as one of the best African film directors of his generation, which makes him worthy of this list of black movie directors. His interest in film began at a young age and after high school, worked as an assistant on a documentary about Patrice Lumumba

He got inspired to make his films and attended cinema school in Russia. On his return to Mali, he made several films. His most recognized work is Yeelen (Light or Brightness), a film that won him a jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1987. 

He was the first African filmmaker to win a prize in Cannes’ history. In 1995, his film Waati (Time), was nominated for the Palme d’Or award at Cannes.

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Nia DaCosta

‘Candyman’ director Nia DaCosta breaks down her process for building dramatic tension. Video Credit: IMDb

Nia is a Jamaican-American film director born in New York. She was exposed to arts, as her mother did music. That said, growing up, she wanted to be a poet but after watching Apocalypse Now, her attention shifted to films. 

She attended the New York University Tisch School of the Arts. After graduation, she worked with some high-profile directors like Martin Scorsese and Steven McQueen

Her first project Little Woods won the Nora Ephron Prize at the Tribeca Film Festival. Other films she’s directed include Candyman, The Marvels, and Night and Day

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Oscar Micheaux 

This video looks at the career of the first major black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. Video Credit: Black History in Two Minutes or so

Oscar Micheaux is one of the most influential black movie directors to work in the industry. He owned the first production house by a black person, the Lincon Motion Picture Company. He pioneered the creation of films that tackled race. 

Some of his earliest films include The HomeSteader, Within Our Gates, and The Brute among others. He was awarded the 1986 Golden Jubilee Special Award and was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Wanuri Kahiu

Film director Wanuri Kahiu. Source: Instagram

Wanuri is a Kenyan film director who rose to global prominence in 2018 after making the film Rafiki. It sparked controversy in her home country due to conservative views about romantic relationships. 

Plus, the fact that a huge population in Kenya has yet to embrace homosexual relationships. On the international stage, the film received critical acclaim. It was the first Kenyan film to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Queer Palm Award. 

Kahiu is also behind the film From a Whisper, a feature film based on the U.S. Embassy attacks of 1998. She received several nominations for this film and won a couple of awards at the Africa Movie Academy Awards

The importance of black movie directors remains critical in the storytelling of black stories. This list features directors who paved the way for the current generations and those who carry on their legacy. Have you watched films made by any of these directors?   

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