Black people have made advances both in front of and behind the camera, but Black women, who are sometimes a double or triple minority, have faced more hurdles than their male counterparts, especially when telling stories about Black women.
Zora Neal Hurston, Euzhan Palcy, and Julie Dash inspire Gina Prince-Bythewood, Kasi Lemmons, and Ava DuVernay. These artists are advancing a new generation of Black women storytellers. Here are some of the greatest rising stars you need to know.
The Dance Lesson, Chinonye Chukwu's first short, and alaskaLand, her first feature film, have attracted some interest from the film community.
The Nigerian-American actress rose to fame with her second picture, Clemency, starring Alfre Woodard as a tortured prison warden. The director wrote Clemency after Troy Davis' 2011 execution. Chukwu won the 2019 American Dramatic Grand Jury Prize.
The director next makes her feature film debut with Till, which follows the life of activist and educator Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley (Danielle Deadwyler). Till follows Till-Mobley after her 14-year-old son Emmett Louis Till's death. The assassination of the youngster when he was visiting family in Mississippi drew to light the crimes of lynching and the continuous racial hatred and torture Black people endured in American society.
Nikyatu Jusu became obsessed with the supernatural after reading Octavia Butler. The director's 2019 film Suicide by Sunlight followed a Black vampire whose melanin protected her from the sun. Nanny, starring Anna Diop, was Jusu's Sundance premiere. Senegalese immigrant Aisha (Diop) wants to be a nanny for a wealthy Upper East Side household. When Aisha realizes she's a pawn in the couple's crumbling marriage, things turn sour. The film criticizes racism, classism, immigration, and terror.
Nanny won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Amazon Studios and Blumhouse Productions bought the film after the festival; they'll distribute it later this year in theaters and on Amazon Prime Video. Jusu's upcoming project, co-written with Fredrica Bailey, will debut at Universal as part of Monkeypaw's overall deal.
Diallo's short films White Devil and Hair Wolf won the 2018 Sundance Jury Award in the U.S. short film category. Hair Wolf follows the staff of a Black hair parlor as they strive to outwit a nasty white woman in gentrifying Brooklyn. Master, based on some of Diallo's own experiences, premiered at Sundance this year. The film's location is an elite New England university. Gail Bishop (Hall), the first Black Master (or dean), supports student Jasmine Moore (Zoe Renee), who must confront her own racial horror and othering.
Janicza Bravo directed Juneteenth on FX's Atlanta in 2016. She established herself in independent movies with Gregory Go Boom and Woman of the Year. She returned to Sundance with Zola after debuting with Lemon in 2017. Taylour Paige won Best Actress and Joi McMillon won Best Editing. Screenplay co-writers include Taylour Paige and Jeremy O. Harris.