Please recommend some movies by African-American creators
June 23, 2015 4:16 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I recently watched Dope and really enjoyed it. We'd like to seek out more movies by African-American creators. Any recommendations are welcome, but we are especially interested in movies made by and starring African Americans, and we prefer movies that are somewhat "fun", even if they have serious themes. (We're open to various interpretations of "made by", but generally written and/or directed counts.)

Movies we've seen and liked include Do the Right Thing, Coming to America, and Malcolm X, but we're hoping to branch out beyond Eddie Murphy and Spike Lee. Thank you!
posted by cider to Media & Arts (37 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Google: John Singleton, Robert Townsend, the Hughes Brothers, the Wayans Brothers, Bill Duke, Steve McQueen, Sidney Poitier, Reginald Hudlin...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:19 PM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Inkwell directed by Matty Rich. And the filmography of Ava DuVernay.
posted by xaryts at 4:30 PM on June 23, 2015

I recently enjoyed Top Five directed by and starring Chris Rock with a ton of cameos by Black comics.
posted by vunder at 4:32 PM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Steve McQueen the filmmaker is not African American, as he is not American, but he has made some very interesting films recently.

Many people I know think that Sweet Sweetback's Badassssss Song is the best Black film ever made.

Melvin Van Peeble's son Mario made a very fun and very informative movie about the making of Sweet Sweetback, called BAADASSSSS!, starring himself as his dad. Highly recommended.

I personally think Fear of a Black Hat is one of the funniest movies ever made as well as being a fantastic social commentary, and it sets the bar for all of the mockumentaries about fake bands that followed (I'm looking at you, Spinal Tap). I used to argue its merits with an ex-boyfriend who thought that funniest movie ever made was CB4. This same boyfriend introduced me to the Friday movies.
posted by janey47 at 4:33 PM on June 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

Eve's Bayou and I Like it Like That are two movies I enjoyed, both directed by African-American women.
posted by zorseshoes at 4:39 PM on June 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

I know you said you wanted to branch out beyond Spike Lee but I must suggest his film Crooklyn if you haven't seen it. It's a great coming of age story. A bit sad, but funny. It's underrated if you ask me.
posted by girlmightlive at 5:13 PM on June 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

A lot of good suggestions, if you like music and are in the mood for a documentary wattstax is great. It's about a concert put on by stax records commemorating the watts uprising in 1972. Its narrated by (young) Richard Pryor - its so great, but the music, fashion, and commentary put it on a different plane than most music docs.

Also, @Janey47 - feat of a black hat was a great movie, but it came out 10 yrs after spinal tap
posted by askmehow at 5:37 PM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also Malcolm D. Lee, Spike's cousin, has made some good movies. I particularly like Undercover Brother and Roll Bounce.
posted by girlmightlive at 5:40 PM on June 23, 2015

The fun movie you want to see is Fear of a Black Hat written and directed by Rusty Cundieff. It's a mockumentary like This is Spinal Tap, but with rap music. And I totally missed that Janey47 had previously suggested this already.
posted by Rob Rockets at 5:42 PM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty by Terence Nance is a funny experimental movie you might like, about the young creator's desire for (or really obsession with) a "friend."

Also, Passing Strange was directed by Spike Lee in that he filmed the last performances of the musical by Stew and Heidi Rodewald (of Stew and the Negro Problem); but it's not really what you'd call a Spike Lee movie.
posted by mistersix at 5:54 PM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

It might be hard to find but I'd recommend Chameleon Street. Wendell Harris only directed the one film but I think it is a winner. Also I recently watched Shirley Clarke's Portrait of Jason which I thought was great. I'll echo the love for Rusty Cundieff's Fear of a Black Hat - good stuff.
posted by Ashwagandha at 6:25 PM on June 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Daughters of the Dust, but it's not all that lighthearted.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:31 PM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ok, it is not fun. But Daughters of the Dust is an amazing film by Julie Dash, with fantastic performances, that has stayed with me for over a decade. Absolutely beautiful. The story is tragic in parts, and has some tough themes (sexual violence, racism), yet it is also very hopeful. Narrated by a child who is running to her mother to be born. It is listed as English in IMDB, but it is in an English that is peppered with a regional dialect that you slowly get to follow and understand, which was an interesting experience in itself.
posted by chapps at 6:36 PM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

ack! Ideefixe beat me to it!
posted by chapps at 6:37 PM on June 23, 2015

Overlooked despite critical success on the film fest circuit when it came out, Drylongso by Cauleen Smith was great. Looks like it's available online, as of a couple months ago!
posted by mahorn at 7:10 PM on June 23, 2015

I know you said you want to branch out beyond Spike Lee, but have you seen Inside Man? It's very different from most of his oeuvre and quite exciting.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 7:31 PM on June 23, 2015

Dear White People, which I liked much better than Dope.
posted by brujita at 8:00 PM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Waiting to Exhale!

And I second the recommendation of Crooklyn.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:26 PM on June 23, 2015

Fun (yet I haven't seen it): Barbershop
Not so fun (yet it made a big impression on me): Killer of Sheep
posted by hydrophonic at 9:33 PM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Tales From The Hood is actually really good
posted by johngoren at 9:43 PM on June 23, 2015

Love and basketball!
posted by bookworm4125 at 12:59 AM on June 24, 2015

If you're interested in the history, look up Oscar Micheaux, who was making films between 1918 and the early 30's in North Carolina with his own production company.

I was in the Science Museum in Jacksonville Fl and they had an exhibit about an early 20 century Black-owned film production company making feature films and documentaries. Unfortunately I've forgotten the name and don't have my photographs to hand. But I remember they seemed pretty damn glamorous productions - the early history of film is partly fascinating for how open it was to pioneers before it became systematised imo. So many women directors as well.

Thirding Daughters of the Dust. Julie Dash's graduation film is also well thought of, a many-layered, meditative short about a singer dubbing in for a star's voice in 40's Hollywood. At least I think it was her graduation film, Wiki doesn't say: Illusions.

Another director: Euzhan Palcy. Wiki says a film director, writer and producer from Martinique, French West Indies. She is notable for being the first black woman director produced by a major Hollywood studio (MGM), for A Dry White Season, as well as being the only woman filmmaker to have directed Marlon Brando, whom she brought back to the screen after a gap of nine years.[1] Palcy is also the first black artist to win a César Award, the highest French film award and the first black director to win of a Venice Film Festival Award (Silver Lion). Anyhow her debut film La Rue Cases-Nègres (Black Shack Alley) is really nice.
posted by glasseyes at 3:34 AM on June 24, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all of these great suggestions! We're filling up our Netflix queue, and we'll be coming back to refer to this thread often!
posted by cider at 4:25 AM on June 24, 2015

I came in to say Chameleon Street. It's fabulous and deserves to be better known.
posted by OmieWise at 5:40 AM on June 24, 2015

Three of my favorite Atlanta movies with black directors and mostly black casts: Drumline, Stomp the Yard, and Lottery Ticket. All are pretty fun and light, but have a feeling for black culture (specifically culture at historically black colleges for the first two).

The American remake of Death at a Funeral is also great.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:47 AM on June 24, 2015

The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)
Nothing But a Man (1964)
posted by perhapses at 5:59 AM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nthing Fear of a Black Hat, which is one of my favorite movies ever.

(Just FYI--This is Spinal Tap did NOT follow Fear of a Black Hat; it was the original to which FoaBH is the [excellent] homage.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:11 AM on June 24, 2015

Love Jones
posted by sulaine at 9:11 AM on June 24, 2015

William Greaves' Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One is a lot of fun.
posted by Chenko at 10:42 AM on June 24, 2015

The Best Man and its sequel, The Best Man Holiday.

Deliver Us From Eva, which is an interpretation of Shakespeare's The Taming of The Shrew. I love Gabrielle Union's character.

Something New.

I think these are all breezy and fun with some deeper themes (and maybe they remain breezy to a slight fault because the deeper themes aren't all that fleshed out). I think the women can be a slightly one-dimensional (successful but shrewish/prudish because they need a man or whatever)--but they are still enjoyable, vulnerable and funny.
posted by luckyveronica at 11:24 AM on June 24, 2015

Two other things that are a little different would be to see A Huey P Newton Story, the one-man play by Robert Guenvuer Smith as filmed by Spike Lee. I remember catching it on PBS at one point.

Similarly, Anna Deveare Smith does one-woman stage plays based on interviews - Fires In The Mirror and Twilight: Los Angeles 1992. The second was filmed, but not sure if you'd be able to find it.
posted by vunder at 11:53 AM on June 24, 2015

Hollywood Shuffle!!!
posted by CookieNose at 4:07 PM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Medicine for Melancholy is delightful.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:03 AM on June 25, 2015

Pariah by Dee Rees! One of the most beautiful and realistic films about the coming of age of a queer black woman, but doesn't demonize anyone. It's funny, charming, beautiful.
posted by yueliang at 11:11 PM on June 25, 2015

Cooley High is a 1975 film about a group of teens from Cabrini-Green, Chicago. It's got a bit of a cult following. NPR just did a story about it. There's an edited version up on YouTube.
posted by hydrophonic at 2:20 PM on June 26, 2015

Almost forgot about Higher Learning. I just loved that movie.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:47 AM on June 27, 2015

Last Holiday starring Queen Latifah also sounds like what you're looking for: "Upon learning of a terminal illness, a shy woman (Queen Latifah) decides to sell off all her possessions and live it up at a posh European hotel."
posted by luckyveronica at 7:50 AM on July 22, 2015

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