LOS ANGELES, CA-- As Black History Month ends, Cultural World Bilingual joins the Academy of Motion Picture Art and Science, in their recognition of fifteen Black directors, actors and writers whose projects, ranging from short films to multipart documentaries and everything in between continue to make a difference in the film world. They are in alphabetical order:
The Parisian-born Algerian director one of France's most honored working filmmakers with his films united by a theme of fighting injustice around the world. His Oscar nominated 1995 drama Dust of Life, and his acclaimed Days of Glory, in 2006, made a different footprint in the world.
Long after her death in 1988, the work of this pioneering civil rights activist, writer, and educator jolted the film world. Her film Losing Ground was initially given sparse exhibition at first. But years later, rediscovered and reappraised as a masterpiece. Her film, a semi-autobiographical comedy and the very first sound American feature film to be directed by a Black woman, tells the story of a philosophy professor torn between two men and her career. When reappraised, Losing Ground rewrote the cinematic history books in 2015.
The young American director have been broken multiple barriers since his powerhouse debut with Fruitvale Station (2013) starring his frequent acting collaborator Michael B. Jordan. The film depicts the tragic true story of Oakland's Oscar Grant, which anticipated the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2015, Coogler revived his Rocky franchise with Creed and delivered one of Marvel's most successful films, Black Panther (2018) which earned seven Academy Award Nominations which included the Best Picture Nomination for a superhero film and won three Oscars.
Du Vernay has shattered barriers since making her debut as a filmmaker. He initially embarked on a directing career while still working as a publicist. Her acclaimed film Middle of November (2012) featured a look at the plight of incarcerated prisoners and the impact of their circumstances on there families, an approach that she brought to major public awareness with her Oscar nominated documentary 13th (2016) and Selma. She was elected to the Academy's Board of Governors for The Directors Branch in 2020.
Is one of many filmmakers who shook up the independent film scene and took advantage of the widespread popularity of home video, Harris stood out as a female filmmaker with a distinctive voice as the writer, director and producer of Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. (1992) In the film she let us get inside the heart and soul of a young woman determined to overcome the obstacle in her Brooklyn surrounds.
Houston was the first Black woman to earn an Oscar Nomination for a film she directed, Tuesday Morning Ride (1995) based on a story by Harlem's writer Arna Bontemps, about an aging couple (Ruby Dee and Bill Cobbs) dealing with a society they feel no longer has any use for them.
The LGBT experience of Black youths became a major topic of conversation with the release of Jenkins' second feature film Moonlight (2016) which went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture, as well as Oscars for Best Supporting actor for Mahershal Ali and Best Adapted Screenplay for Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney. He was nominated again for his screenplay and third directorial feature If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) which won an Oscar for Best supporting actress for Regina King.
Because a list of this ground breaking filmmaker's achievements and impact would be too long to cover in this article, we would only say that his filmography includes many classics films such as Do the Right Thing (1989) Malcon X (l992) and BlacKkKlansman (2018) to name a few. However, we all know that Lee's impact on the community may be best seen in his impressive short and long form documentary work, among them; the Oscar-nominated 4 Little Girls (1997) a documentary about the victims of a l962 bombing in Birmingham, and When the Leaves Willing and da Creek Don't Rise (2010) and Mo'ne Davis: I throw like a girl (2014) all of which examine the tangled relationship in America between race, government, and modern media.
The Seattle-born documentarian is remembered as the first African-American Director to receive an Oscar for Undefeated (2011) a feature length film which he co-directed with Daniel Lindsay. The film is a fly-on-the wall look at a Memphis football team trying to turn around a punishing losing streak. The film became the film festival favorite. Other of his documentaries is Angeles Riots and Tina a documentary about Tina Turner.
Haitian-Based Peck dedicated his entire filmmaking career to social change through documentaries and has offered a powerful perspective on politics, colonialism and other pressing issues through films all the way up to last year's Exterminate All the Brutes (2021). His voice reached a new level of exposure with his powerful Oscar-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro (2016) which frames the life of legendary American Activist and writer James Baldwin
The face of the 1990's indie cinema would have been very different indeed without Singleton a singular writer-director who exploded on the scene and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Director for his feature film debut Boyz n the Hood (1991). He was only 23 years old when he directed the coming-of-age drama, making him the youngest filmmaker to ever be nominated in the Best Director category. Singleton also became the first African American to be nominated for an Academy Award for Directing. He went to channel his success into a career that included films: Poetic Justice (l993) and Baby Boy (2001) solidifying a voice that can still be heard after his passing in 2019.
ROGER ROSS WILLIAMS
Williams was the first African-American filmmaker who won an Oscar with his inspiring Music by Prudence a documentary short about a disable Zimbabwe-born singer and her band who buck the odds to reach an audience. Since then, Williams has gone on to several notable projects including God Loves Uganda (2013) and Life Animated (2016).
KEVIN WILSON, JR.
Wilson is a recent voice on the scene. This young director moved and educated audiences with his Oscar-nominated short film My Nephew Emmet (2017) The film takes a new look at the horrific 1955 murder of Emmett Till as experienced by his uncle, Mose Wright Wilson Jr. has continued illuminating the world with his work since then, having recently made a PSA dedicated to supporting essential workers impacted by the Covid-l9 pandemic.
DEBRA J. ROBINSON
Another recent restoration by the Academy Film Archive is I Be Done Been Was Is (1984) an hour-long documentary that explored a previously neglected side of the entertainment industry: the live comedy scene as experience by Black women. Here we meet four female comedians balancing their private lives with the demands of making it big on both coasts - in a business already known for the many challenges it presented even to white comedians.
After starting out in advertising, Detroit-born Woods became one of the first Black women to excel in the realm of short films including two pivotal titles, Killing Time (1979) with Woods starring as a woman grappling with the decision to end her life, and Fannie's Film (l981) a documentary short about the day-to-day life of a cleaning woman who improbable finds inspiration in her surroundings. Both shorts have recently been restored by the Academy Film Archive ensuring that her voice and achievements will continue to inspire us.