“Tell It Like It Is”
“Many pioneering African-American directors, like Melvin Van Peebles and Julie Dash, were trailblazers who found money for their fiercely idiosyncratic visions. They defied expectations and proved that there was an audience for films about black characters as told by black artists.”
– Arts and culture site Flavorwire, in the introduction to their list of “50 Essential African American Independent Films.”
Some of these films are rare or hard to find… Others are right here at your Library:
Killer of Sheep
Charles Burnett’s debut film was shot while he was still in grad school, with a $10,000 budget – and was one of the first 50 films inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. Set in the Watts community in Los Angeles, a sensitive African American man finds himself numbed by his work in a slaughterhouse.
Middle of Nowhere
Ruby, a bright medical student, sets aside her dreams when her husband is incarcerated. This new life challenges her to the very core, and her turbulent path propels her in new, often frightening directions of self-discovery.
Medicine for Melancholy
Two African American twenty-somethings have a one-night stand. And a night they barely remember becomes a day they will never forget. A tale of sex, race, bicycles and modern urban life. Deals with the challenge of being a minority in a rapidly gentrifying San Francisco.
Daughters of the Dust
The first theatrically released Indie feature directed by an African American woman, Julie Dash’ film is the turn-of-the-century story of three generations of an African-American family as they prepare to move North from the Sea Islands off the coast of Georgia.
An aspiring teen poet must decide if she should stay in Fort Greene with her disapproving family and continue to internalize her feelings of sexual guilt, or leave home and start over.
Stanley Nelson’s 2010 documentary about the freedom riders busing movement includes interviews with several original freedom riders and won three Primetime Emmy Awards.
An Oversimplification of her Beauty
Terence Nance’s experimental narrative asks how much of our identities are defined by our experiences, and uses animated segments to tell its metaphysical romantic-comedy tale: Guy gets stood up by girl, wonders why it upsets him, and makes a movie to explain to her how he feels. Features music by trip-hop guru Flying Lotus.
Night Catches Us
A variation on the film’s concerned with the future of an all-black community that lacks strong male leadership: In 1976 Philadelphia, an ex-Black Panther returns home from jail and is confronted with an unfriendly, unfamiliar neighborhood, and unites with the widow of his former best friend and a fellow Panther.
The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and feels something in the air. Not sure what it is, he takes it as a sign to get a head start on his resolutions: Being a better son to his mother, being a better partner to his girlfriend, and being a better father to T, their beautiful four-year-old daughter. He starts out well, but as the day goes on, he realizes that change is not going to come easy.