The art of storytelling is essential to the Black experience, and who better to narrate than Black women. Here are a few of the many up-and-coming Black women directors who are eschewing Hollywood stereotypes and creating room for diverse Black stories with fresh outlooks and perspectives.
Dee Rees is a dedicated student of film. She’s an alumna of New York University where she studied under Spike Lee, her then professor who later became a mentor. Rees got her start working on Lee’s films Inside Man and When the Levees Broke before debuting her first feature film, Pariah, a coming-of-age story about a Black teen who’s faced with challenges and changes as she grows into her sexuality. Rees’s later directing includes work on the network series Empire and films Bessie (HBO) and Mudbound (Netflix), which received four Oscar nominations.
Channing Godfrey Peoples
Channing Godfrey Peoples gained high critical praise for her debut film at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, Miss Juneteenth (recently greenlit to series). Also, Peoples recently inked a deal to write, produce, and direct future projects for Universal Content Productions (UCP), operating under NBC-Universal.
Below Dreams, Bradley’s feature film debut, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014 and won the special jury award at the New Orleans Film Festival. In 2020 she became the first Black woman to win a nonfiction feature directing award in the U.S. documentary competition at Sundance Film Festival for the film Time, a story that follows Sibil “Fox Rich” Richardson’s fight to get her husband released from a 60-year prison sentence.
Blank’s semi-autobiographical 2020 comedy, The 40-Year-Old Version, was critically praised, winning the U.S. Dramatic Competition Director Award at Sundance Film Festival. Before Blank’s debut film, she was a television writer penning for both Empire and She’s Gotta Have It.
DaCosta’s 2019 feature film debut Little Woods is a western thriller that won the Nora Ephron Prize at the Tribeca Film Festival. Although delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, her remake/update of the horror classic Candyman is still highly anticipated and has been rescheduled with a 2021 premiere release. Marvel Studios also announced that the Captain Marvel sequel will be directed by DaCosta, making her the youngest filmmaker in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Matsoukas’s resume includes being a four-time MTV Video Award winner and a two-time Grammy winner for Rihanna’s “We Found Love” and Beyonce’s “Formation” music videos. Her directorial debut was Queen & Slim, a road crime drama with contemporary racial overtones delivered in a sexy, Black love story. Matsoukas’s work is just getting started as her production company De La Revolución Films recently signed a two-year, first-look deal with MGM Film Group, creating a platform for future stories.
Meghie debuted her feature film, Jean of the Joneses, at the 2016 SXSW Film Festival. It received Best Screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards. Pre-pandemic her film The Photograph premiered as a celebrated intergenerational Black love story. Meghie is also scheduled to direct I Wanna Dance with Somebody, a biopic on the late, legendary Whitney Houston.