Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
This "Faith-Based" Drama Is Giving 'Straight Outta Compton' a Run for Its Money This Weekend... This "Faith-Based" Drama Is Giving 'Straight Outta Compton' a Run for Its Money This Weekend... Lee Daniels' Richard Pryor Biopic Is Officially Ready to Go (Mike Epps, Eddie Murphy, Oprah Winfrey, Kate Hudson) Lee Daniels' Richard Pryor Biopic Is Officially Ready to Go (Mike Epps, Eddie Murphy, Oprah Winfrey, Kate Hudson) Watch 5 Clips from Regina King's Feature Directorial Debut 'Let The Church Say Amen' Starring Naturi Naughton Watch 5 Clips from Regina King's Feature Directorial Debut 'Let The Church Say Amen' Starring Naturi Naughton Righting a Past Wrong? Academy to Present Spike Lee with Honorary Oscar Righting a Past Wrong? Academy to Present Spike Lee with Honorary Oscar African-American Female Team Produce Indie Horror Film ‘The Dark Rite’ African-American Female Team Produce Indie Horror Film ‘The Dark Rite’ Viola Davis Says She Will Star in a Film Adaptation of 'Fences' Directed by Denzel Washington Viola Davis Says She Will Star in a Film Adaptation of 'Fences' Directed by Denzel Washington "This Is a Relationship" - Watch Michael Ealy Frighten Sanaa Lathan in Tense First Clip From 'The Perfect Guy' "This Is a Relationship" - Watch Michael Ealy Frighten Sanaa Lathan in Tense First Clip From 'The Perfect Guy' Vin Diesel Says He's Returning for a 'xXx' Threequel - Filming to Start in December Vin Diesel Says He's Returning for a 'xXx' Threequel - Filming to Start in December Updates on Steve McQueen's "Epic" Series Centered on a Black Community in London, Over 3 Decades Updates on Steve McQueen's "Epic" Series Centered on a Black Community in London, Over 3 Decades This Is What Angela Bassett and Naomi Campbell Will Look Like in 'American Horror Story: Hotel' This Is What Angela Bassett and Naomi Campbell Will Look Like in 'American Horror Story: Hotel' Quentin Tarantino Says 'The Hateful Eight' Will Be Timely & Will Tackle White Supremacy Quentin Tarantino Says 'The Hateful Eight' Will Be Timely & Will Tackle White Supremacy But What About Black Superheroines, You Ask? Watch Episode 1 of CW Seed's Vixen Series But What About Black Superheroines, You Ask? Watch Episode 1 of CW Seed's Vixen Series Watch: Trailer for Miniseries Based on Life of Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz (Coming This Fall) Watch: Trailer for Miniseries Based on Life of Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz (Coming This Fall) Watch: First Look at Season Three of 'Hit the Floor' Watch: First Look at Season Three of 'Hit the Floor' Brad Pitt's Plan B + 'Ex Machina' Distribution Company Team up for Barry Jenkins' 'Moonlight' Brad Pitt's Plan B + 'Ex Machina' Distribution Company Team up for Barry Jenkins' 'Moonlight' Jay Ellis and Yvonne Orji Join Issa Rae in 'Insecure' for HBO Jay Ellis and Yvonne Orji Join Issa Rae in 'Insecure' for HBO Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... AFM News: Danny Glover, Derek Luke Will Play Prison Inmates In 3D Drama 'Long Day Journey' AFM News: Danny Glover, Derek Luke Will Play Prison Inmates In 3D Drama 'Long Day Journey'

At Least Five Oscar-Qualifying Documentaries This Year Were Directed by Black Women - Are You Watching?

Photo of Jai Tiggett By Jai Tiggett | Shadow and Act November 11, 2013 at 7:29PM

This year, there are at least five feature length documentaries directed by black women qualifying for Academy Award consideration...
8
Clockwise from top left: Dawn Porter, Shola Lynch, Yoruba Richen, Michele Stephenson, Marta Cunningham
Clockwise from top left: Dawn Porter, Shola Lynch, Yoruba Richen, Michele Stephenson, Marta Cunningham

Woefully underreported by major news outlets to date is the fact that this year, there are at least five feature documentaries directed by black women qualifying for Academy Award consideration, including Gideon's Army by Dawn Porter; Free Angela and All Political Prisoners by Shola Lynch; Valentine Road by Marta Cunningham; The New Black by Yoruba Richen; and American Promise by Michele Stephenson

I've written often here on S&A about the work being done in the documentary world and how it tends to fly under the radar. Even critically acclaimed docs tend to receive less attention, understandably, as they come with smaller budgets, limited distribution (if they make it to theaters at all), and center on issues that are often more serious and less "sexy" than their counterparts on the scripted film side. 

Still, black documentary filmmakers - and black women in particular - are doing groundbreaking work that continues to be overlooked even within the doc and independent film space. The films listed above have been awarded and recognized widely on the film festival circuit, but many are still struggling to get mentioned on the shortlists that will push them towards serious Oscar consideration. 

As advances in digital filmmaking have made documentaries far more affordable and accessible, these filmmakers are thriving in terms of output and achievement, but are still hankering for attention. 

So as we see a noteworthy number of black female doc directors qualifying for Oscars this year, it makes sense to highlight these films, if only in hopes that more voting members will be watching and taking note. 

We've covered most of these projects at length on this site, but consider this a handy recap for those just tuning in: 

FREE ANGELA AND ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS

Director: Shola Lynch 

This in-depth profile of activist Angela Davis premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and attracted the support of executive producers Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Jay-Z. 

S&A Review HERE

S&A Interview with Shola Lynch HERE


VALENTINE ROAD

Director: Marta Cunningham 

This HBO Documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and explores the lives of two middle schoolers - an out transgender student and the classmate convicted of his murder. 


GIDEON'S ARMY

Director: Dawn Porter

A profile of three young, idealistic public defenders in the Deep South. This New York Times Critic Pick won the Editing award at Sundance 2013. 

S&A Review HERE


AMERICAN PROMISE

Directors: Michele Stephenson and Joe Brewster

Won the Documentary Special Jury Prize for Achievement in Filmmaking at Sundance 2013. Follows the 13-year educational journeys of two African American boys at an elite college prep school. 

S&A Review HERE 

S&A interview with Michele Stephenson and Joe Brewster HERE


THE NEW BLACK

Director: Yoruba Richen 

This explosive documentary on race, sexuality, and the black church premiered at LA Film Festival and picked up the Best Documentary award at Urbanworld Film Festival. 


*Many thanks to Thom Powers and our friends in the doc world for lending their thoughts to this discussion. 

This article is related to: Shola Lynch, Michèle Stephenson, Dawn Porter, Yoruba Richen


Shadow & ActNewsletter