Judging from the Black films Hollywood currently pumps out (if at all), we are all heterosexual, middle class, single heathens who find religion, a good man, and live happily ever after. While this may be true for some African-Americans, many of our stories do not fit neatly into these boxes, and often times our varied narratives are left out of the on-screen experience. But a new crop of filmmakers is taking care to document and tell many of the stories that often go untold.
Recently the New York Times ran an article highlighting several new filmmakers who are offering an “alternative” view of Black life. The article, “New Directors Flesh Out Black America, All of It,” features Dee Rees, Rashaad Ernesto Green, Andrew Dosunmu, Andrew Dosunmu, and Victoria Mahoney.
Rees’ breakout film “Pariah” expertly depicts a subject rarely seen on screen, Black lesbians. In her coming-of-age film, Rees adeptly showcases well-developed characters who struggle with the messy intersections of race and sexuality in Brooklyn. Rees has received critical acclaim for her film, and because of Hollywood’s refusal to take many chances on independent films, a lot of riding on “Pariah’s” success.
The NY Times writes:
Other films have depicted this particular black alternative life (as did a couple of memorable characters in HBO’s masterly series “The Wire”), but no film made by a black lesbian about being a black lesbian has ever received the kind of attention showered on Ms. Rees’s film. It was a major success at the Sundance Festival in January and, even before its limited release on Wednesday, has entered the conversation as a long shot Oscar contender courtesy of the aggressive folks at NBC Universal’s specialty arm, Focus Features.
Ms. Rees, a slight, boyish 34-year-old with a shy demeanor, was recently named breakthrough director of the year at the Gotham Awards, and the film received two Spirit Award nominations, acknowledgements of good will toward the picture in the independent film world. But “Pariah” is important, not simply as a promising directorial debut, but also as the most visible example of the mini-movement of young black filmmakers telling stories that complicate assumptions about what “black film” can be by embracing thorny issues of identity, alienation and sexuality.
Other films such as Rashaad Ernesto Green’s “Gun Hill Road,”Andrew Dosunmu’s “Restless City,” Alrick Brown’s “Kinyarwanda” and Victoria Mahoney’s“Yelling to the Sky” showcase various facets of Black life and prove that talented filmmakers with well-crafted stories are out there, despite what Hollywood normally showcases. Not since the Blaxploitation movement of the ’70s and the Black film boom in the early ’90s have this many diverse Black films been making waves in the industry.
Do you support independent Black films? What was the last indie film you saw?