Feature Films Directed by African American Women

Historical Timeline of Feature Films Directed by African American Women

– 1922 – 

A Womans Error – Tressie Souders; Considered the first film to be directed by a black woman in the United States.

– 1923 – 

Flames of Wrath – Maria P. Williams; Maria P. Williams produced, distributed, and acted in her own film, The Flames of Wrath (1923).

– 1980 – 

Othello – Liz White; 115 mins; The film was shot between 1962 and 1966, but it wasn’t completed and screened until 1980.

-1982- 

Losing Ground – Kathleen Collins Prettyman; 86 mins; A comedy-drama about a Black American female philosophy professor and her insensitive, philandering, and flamboyant artist husband who are having a marital crisis.

– 1989 – 

Twice as Nice – Jessie Maple; 70 mins; Maple’s second narrative feature uses an intimate story—the relationship of twin college basketball players—to examine the nature of sisterhood, competition, and friendship.

Leola: Love Your Momma – Ruby L. Oliver; 92 mins, Ruby L. Oliver’s indie debut is a semi-autobiographical drama focusing on the struggles of woman living in the ghetto of Southside Chicago who must cope with an alcoholic husband and three troubled children (two layabout sons and an unmarried, pregnant daughter)

From Rags to Reality – Joy Shannon/Joy S’hani Ache; 90 mins; The first feature by an African American woman to receive a home video release. The name of the film was changed to Uptown Angel for the video release. 

The Dry White Season – Euzhan Palcy; 97 mins; The French director from Martinique became the first women of African descent to direct a feature film produced by a major Hollywood studio.

– 1990 – 

Trouble I’ve Seen – Heather Foxworth

The Three Muscatels – Romell Foster-Owens; 90 mins, Richard Pryor stars in this parody of The Three Musketeers follows a coed who falls asleep while reading the book and dreams about a trio of swashbuckling heroes.

– 1991 – 

Daughters Of The Dust – Julie Dash; 112 mins; The first feature directed by an African American woman to receive national theatrical distribution.

– 1992 – 

Alma’s Rainbow – Ayoka Chenzira; 85 mins; An African-American girl living in Brooklyn comes of age in this comedy-drama.

Kiss Grandmamma Goodbye – Debra Robinson; 70 mins; A drama set in an African-American community in the 1960s, Robinson’s celebration of African-American family ties tells the story of Gail, a young girl who must come to terms with the death of Grandmama, her close friend and mentor.

– 1993 – 

Just Another Girl from the IRT –  Leslie Harris; 92 mins; Distributed by Miramax it is the first feature by an African American woman to be distributed by a major theatrical distributor.

The Gifted – Audrey Lewis; 101 mins; The first sci-fi feature by an African American woman. Psychic descendents of an African tribe reunite to save Earth.

Bessie Coleman’s Dream to Fly – Leslie Harris

– 1994 – 

I Like It Like That – Darnell Martin; 104 mins; The first African African American woman to direct a feature film produced by a major Hollywood studio.

– 1995 – 

Out Of Sync – Debbie Allen; 105 mins; A deejay and ex-con is forced to work with the police in an undercover drug sting targeting his boss.

Naked Acts – Bridgett Davis; Set within the demanding and revealing milieu of a low-budget film shoot, Naked Acts tells the story of Cicely, an actress, who has recently lost 57 pounds and has landed her first role in a low-budget art film. She soon learns that the role requires a nude scene. Her dilemma: How to keep her clothes on and keep her part?

The Promised Land – Monika Harris

Medipaid Queens – Karen Stone

– 1996 – 

Girlfriends – Marlies Carruth; 1hr and 15mins; The story of three women who, after a shopping spree, are locked out of their car. While waiting for help to arrive, they encounter a variety of bizarre people.

The Watermelon Woman – Cheryl Dunye; 90 mins; The first feature film directed by an “out” African American lesbian about African American lesbians.A breezy, faux-cinema-verite account of a Black lesbian filmmaker researching the life of an obscure actress from the thirties.

– 1997 – 

Eves Bayou – Kasi Lemmons; 109 mins; After a daughter witnesses her father having an affair, she begins a chain reaction that could tear her family apart.

Black & White & Red All Over – DeMane Davis (and Khari Streeter); 97 mins; After the funeral of a friend who was killed during a gang dispute, six African-American friends spend time in an apartment discussing life, getting high, watch TV, and argue about what its like being black in America.

– 1998 –

Down In The Delta – Maya Angelou; 112 mins; Rosa Lynn sends her druggie daughter Loretta and her children Thomas and Tracy away from the big city to live with their uncle Earl in the ancestral home in rural Mississippi.

Lets Talk About Sex – Troy Beyer; 82 mins; An aspiring African-American talk show host sets out with two girlfriends to videotape interviews with multicultural women about life, love and sex.

Nandi – Peggy Hayes; 65 mins; Nandi is the name of a fictitious women’s magazine that caters to the African-American woman. A freelance journalist, Frankie Reynolds, feels that Nandi is her only option for exposing some damaging information about a major pharmaceutical company.

A State of Mind – Yvette Plummer; 80 mins; Violence poses a threat to the relationship of three American American women.

Ride – Millicent Shelton; 90 mins; A group of young people leave Harlem for a bus trip down to Miami. The voyage starts off with problems, but it ends up becoming a learning experience, as they end up learning things about each other they had not previously known.

Drylongso (Ordinary) – Cauleen Smith; 86 mins; This film addresses the everydayness of violence and the extraordinary beauty of daily life.

Mixing Nia – Alison Swan; 92 mins; Nia is a successful copy writer at ad agency, and she leads white yuppie life (though her mother is black). She quits the agency when she is ordered to push a new brand of beer to black urban kids and goes searching for her racial identity.

– 1999 – 

Compensation –  Zeinabu irene Davis; 95 mins; The life of a deaf African American woman in the early 1900’s parallels with another living in the 1990’s.

Del Otro Lado – C.A Griffith; 80 mins, Alejandro and Beto live together in Mexico City, but Alejandro is HIV positive and his T-Cell count is dropping. When he decides to move to the U.S. for the latest treatments. With Beto upset by his lovers decision to leave, Alejandro’s visa application is denied and he has to choose whether to defy his family and his lover and cross the border illegally or risk getting full blown AIDS.

Funny Valentines – Julie Dash; 108 mins; A woman returns to her home town to sort out her troubled marriage and finds new happiness in the rekindling of a broken friendship with her cousin.

– 2000 – 

Gotta Git My Hair Did – Coquie Hughes; 90 mins; An urban comedy about a woman running a hair salon in the basement of her nosey Mothers two flat building.

Love And Basketball – Gina Prince-Bythewood; 124 mins; Monica and Quincy love and play basketball together through many life challenges from childhood to adulthood.Was the top grossing film directed by an African American woman director. ($25 million).

Love Song – Julie Dash; 90 mins; A privileged, black college student with a fiance falls in love with a white musician she meets on her 21st birthday.

– 2001 – 

30 Years To Life – Vanessa Middleton; 115 mins; A group of friends each face an emotional crisis as they approach thirty years of age.

All That Jazzin – Joy S’hani Ache; When a married woman decides to have a fling with a former lover, she gets caught in a complicated and compromising predicament.

All About You – Christine Swanson; 100 mins; Two people run from the pain of their broken past. When they discover each other, they find themselves at a crossroad where the only thing that stands between them and a second chance is each other.

Hells Most Wanted – Coquie Hughes

Prison Song – Darnell Martin; 94 mins; A young man lives and learns while growing up on the street and in and out of correctional facilities.

The Cavemans Valentine – Kasi Lemmons; 105 mins; A cave-dwelling man sets out to track down the killer of a homeless boy, and bring him to justice.

The Right Girl – Theresa Brown

Lift – DeMane Davis; 85 mins; This feature takes us into the world of “boosters” or shoplifters where a charismatic, intelligent young female booster from a dysfunctional family, notably her mother and grandmother, engages in the illegal occupation of shoplifting.

Stranger Inside – Cheryl Dunye; 97 mins; A mother daughter reunion set in the harsh reality of a women’s correctional facility

Sweetcakes – Geretta/Geretta; 90 mins; A baker tries to get her Husband and Lover to get along.

– 2002 – 

Civil Brand – Neema Barnette; 95 mins; Women prisoners strike up a friendship with a young law student who works as a part-time prison guard. Together they discover that a corporation funds and is profitting from the plantation-like work environment they are forced to work under.

Kali’s Vibe  Shari Carpenter; 93 mins; Kali is a smart, beautiful, yoga-teaching social worker. Crystal is Kali’s rap poetess live-in lover. When Crystal’s infidelities become overwhelming, Kali kicks her out. In steps Reese, a sweet, charming co-worker smitten with Kali. When he finds out she is gay he starts to do his homework. After all, she is the woman of his dreams.

If I Was Yo Gurl – Coquie Hughes; First African American woman to direct three independent feature films.An intense pressure cooker drama that explores the roots and results of physical abuse as it relates to two lesbian couples.

The Rosa Parks Story – Julie Dash; 97 mins; A seamstress recalls events leading to her act of peaceful defiance that prompted the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.

– 2003 – 

Love Dont Cost A Thing – Troy Beyer; 100 mins; Highschool loser (Cannon) pays a cheerleader (Milian) to pose as his girlfriend so he can be considered cool. Remake of 1987′ Can’t Buy Me Love, starring Patrick Dempsey.

My Babys Daddy – Cheryl Dunye; 86 mins; A trio of young men (Griffin, Anderson, and Imperioli) are forced to grow up quick when their girlfriends all become pregnant around the same time.

– 2004 – 

Black Aura On An Angel – Faith Trimel; 64 mins; Black Aura on an Angel is a romance thriller that depicts the devastating effects of a woman’s mental illness on a blossoming love affair.

Daughters of the Concrete – Coquie Hughes

– 2005 – 

Building Girl – Shari Carpenter; Meet Colin Vesti, an aspiring writer working as a book publisher’s gopher. Colin’s life is jolted when his best friend Nick, and his dad/roommate arrange for a not-so-romantic dinner for four with Katie Evans, the gorgeous artist who has just moved in down the hall.

D.E.B.S – Angela Robinson; 91 mins; A love story between one of the heroes and the villain. Their relationship is hindered because they are on opposite sides of the law and the fact that they are both female.

Herbie Fully Loaded – Angela Robinson; 101 mins; Maggie Peyton, the new owner of Herbie, Number 53, the free-wheelin’ Volkswagen bug with a mind of its own, puts the car through its paces on the road to becoming a NASCAR competitor.

– 2006 – 

Phat Girlz – Nnegest Likke; 99 mins; Two plus-sized ladies meet the men of their dreams in the most unexpected of ways.

Reunion  – Sheila Norman; 110 mins; Dying professor begrudgingly attends dysfunctional family reunion where she must confront catastrophic childhood issues to reconcile with her estranged younger sister.

Something New – Sanaa Hamri; 99 mins; Kenya McQueen, an accountant finds love in the most unexpected place when she agrees to go on a blind date with Brian Kelly, a sexy and free-spirited landscaper.

– 2007 – 

All About Us – Christine Swanson; 90 mins; Two Hollywood filmmakers attempt to find Morgan Freeman in Mississippi and convince him to star in their next movie. When life gets in their way they soon discover what matters to them most.

Clarksdale – Christine Swanson

If I Had Known I Was A Genius – Dominique Wirtschafer; 104 mins; A teenager with a high I.Q. who decides to become an actor. When his TV show gets cancelled, he is faced with a difficult career choice.

Talk To Me – Kasi Lemmons; 118 mins; The story of Washington D.C. radio personality Ralph “Petey” Greene, an ex-con who became a popular talk show host and community activist in the 1960s.

The Inevitable Undoing of Jay Brooks – Jennifer Sharp; 93 mins; Jay Brooks is that black guy who digs indie rock, graphic novels, and dates white chicks. After a slew of bad break-ups, Jay gives up white women, “cold turkey,” and he goes on a mission: “Operation Brown Sugar”.

Whitepaddy – Geretta/Geretta; 90 mins; During changing times a white family find themselves falling in love with their black next door neighbors.

– 2008 –

Cadillac Records – Darnell Martin; 109 mins; Chronicles the rise of Chess Records and its recording artists.

Sweets and Teats – Geretta/Geretta; 85 mins; When a sexy stranger plays fast and furious with the local talent attitudes and sleeping arrangements must change!

– 2009 –

Family – Faith Trimel; 109 mins; After suffering with the dire consequences of being in the closet, a group of lesbian friends forge a pact to deal with the dire consequences of coming out.

Promised Land – Yoruba Richen; 53 mins; Promised Land examines post-apartheid South Africa’s efforts to bring about racial reconciliation through land redistribution.

The Secret Life Of Bees – Gina Prince-Bythewood; 114 mins; Set in South Carolina in 1964, this is the tale of Lily Owens, a 14 year-old girl who is haunted by the memory of her late mother. To escape her lonely life and troubled relationship with her father T-Ray, Lily flees with Rosaleen, her caregiver and friend, to a South Carolina town that holds the secret to her mother’s past.

Within – Hanelle Culpepper; 95 mins; Rachel is a sweet girl with a troubled soul, caused by a unique gift – she can see evil spirits within others.

– 2010 –

(A)sexual – Angela Tucker; 75 mins; Facing a sex obsessed culture, a mountain of stereotypes and misconceptions, and a lack of social or scientific research, asexuals – people who experience no sexual attraction – struggle to claim their identity.

Heaven Aint Hard To Find – Neema Barnette; 90 mins; A troubled young man on the run from the law sets forth to help out three old sanctified spirits and a beautiful young woman to restore First Greater Saint New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church to its former glory and place in the heart of the black community.

I Will Follow – Ava Duvernay; 80 mins; Chronicles a day in the life of a grieving woman, and the twelve visitors who help her move forward.

Mountains That Take Wing: Angela Davis & Yuri Kochiyama – A Conversation on Life, Struggles & Liberation – C.A Griffith; 98 mins; Thirteen years, two inspiring women, both radical activists-one conversation. MOUNTAINS THAT TAKE WING is a historically rich and unique documentary about two formidable women who share a profound passion for justice.

Night Catches Us – Tanya Hamilton; 90 mins; In 1976, complex political and emotional forces are set in motion when a young man returns to the race-torn Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age during the Black Power movement.

The Owls – Cheryl Dunye; 66 mins; An independent drama about four women struggling to make sense of their pasts lives one particular evening.

Wonder… – Shari Carpenter; 74 mins; A story of various vignettes about the insanities of LIFE, LOVE, and LOST. It’s told through the lenses of 9 different filmmakers, multiple genres, with the use of the exact same dialogue.

– 2011 –

Pariah – Dee Rees; 86 min; A Brooklyn teenager juggles conflicting identities and risks friendship, heartbreak, and family in a desperate search for sexual expression.

– 2012 –

Middle Of Nowhere – Ava Duverney; 97 mins; When her husband is sentenced to eight years in prison, Ruby drops out of medical school in order to focus on her husband’s well-being while he’s incarcerated – leading her on a journey of self-discovery in the process.

Mommy Is Coming – Cheryl Dunye; 64 mins; A sassy, raunchy, romantic sex comedy set in the edgy underground of Berlin where love and taboo affairs collide. 

Murder on the 13th Floor – Hanelle Culpepper; A neglectful mother concocts a plan to kill her live-in nanny when she discovers the nanny is having an affair with her husband.

– 2013 –

Belle – Amma Asante; 100 mins; The mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral is raised by her aristocratic great-uncle in 18th century England.

Wish You Well – Darnell Martin; 100 mins; A young girl and her brother come of age at their great grandmother’s house in Virginia during the 1940s.

Valencia – Cheryl Dunye; 105 mins; Valencia is a collaboration between a national community of queer filmmakers to adapt the underground classic memoir into a kaleidoscopic vision of San Francisco’s Mission District in the early 90s during the rise of a punk lesbian diaspora

Black Nativity – Kasi Lemmons; 93 mins; A street-wise teen from Baltimore who has been raised by a single mother travels to New York City to spend the Christmas holiday with his estranged relatives, where he embarks on a surprising and inspirational journey.

The New Black  – Yoruba Richen; 80 mins; The New Black is a documentary that tells the story of how the African-American community is grappling with the gay rights issue in light of the recent gay marriage movement and the fight over civil rights.

– 2014 –

Beyond The Lights – Gina Prince-Bythewood; 116 mins; The pressures of fame have superstar singer Noni on the edge, until she meets Kaz, a young cop who works to help her find the courage to develop her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be.

Selma – Ava Duverney; 128 mins; A chronicle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.

– 2015 –

As Evil Does – Yolanda Buggs; 85 mins; Two young “Saints Witnesses” Christian evangelists on a friendly pursuit of conversation about religion and God, unknowingly ring the doorbell of a staunch atheist. They are invited in for what they believe will be a friendly discussion and perhaps some soul healing. When the conversation about the existence of God takes a dark, sinister turn for the worse, all hell breaks loose, resulting in supernatural forces, mayhem and heinous torture.

I Really Hate My Ex – Troy Beyer; 86 mins; Three women kidnap their exes and hold them hostage until they get the answers they think they need in order for their hearts to be free.

For The Love of Ruth – Christine Swanson; Ruth Summerling has spent the majority of her life struggling to find her way and comes to some understanding of where exactly it is she belongs.

– 2016 –

13th – Ava Duverney; 100 mins; An in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation’s history of racial inequality.

Ben & Ara – Nnegest Likke; 87 mins; Religious and cultural tensions escalate when an African Islamic woman has an affair with an agnostic man.

Jean Of The Joneses – Stella Meghie; 82 mins; Chaos ensues after the estranged patriarch of the Jones family dies on their doorstep. When the paramedic who answers their 911 call tried to win over acerbic Jean Jones, his attempts are disrupted by old conflicts that come to a boil at the funeral.

Love Under New Managment: The Miki Howard Story – Christine Swanson; 120 mins; Story of Miki Howard, an American R&B and Jazz singer, whose hits include “Ain’t Nobody Like You” and “Ain’t Nuthin’ in the World.”

– 2017 –

All Styles – Angela Tucker; 87 mins; This teen dance drama is about a young hip hop artist who is rejected by his old dance crew for heading off to college before a major competition.

Everything Is Everything – Stella Meghie; 96 mins; A teenager who’s spent her whole life confined to her home falls for the boy next door.

Mudbound – Dee Rees; 134 mins; Two men return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after war.

– 2018 –

A Wrinkle In Time – Ava Duverney; After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find him.

Evrything But A Man – Nnegest Likke; 110 mins; A successful career woman with a failed love-life has a romantic encounter with a mysterious man who leads her on an unexpected journey of self-reflection and discovery.

The Chasing Of A Great Movie – Jennifer Sharp; 88 mins; With $15,000 life savings and $60,000 available on credit cards, a woman fearlessly travels alone to Mexico to accomplish her 18 year dream of making a feature film there.