Thank you to everyone who came out for Black Cinema 2023 in February – we’ll see you next year!
The purpose of Black Cinema is to honor and celebrate the history of black filmmakers, storytellers, actors and creatives during Black History Month. The series aims to go a step beyond the traditional use of film to highlight historical figures and present film as part of the celebration by looking at the history of black cinema.
Taken in its entirety the series presents a history of cinema and the African American experience with cinema in a thoughtful and thorough way. As in many other industries, African Americans have made their mark in film narratively, stylistically, historically, topically, financially and artistically and this series will aim to highlight the route of these significant contributions. Black Cinema began in 2018 and has featured titles including Imitation of Life, Stormy Weather, The Wiz, Putney Swope, Selma, Queen & Slim, Black Girl, Killer of Sheep, just to name a few.
The 2023 Black Cinema Series has been guest curated by Donald Elise Watkins to celebrate Black Fatherhood in film from the 1990s to present. “With this series I wanted to focus on Black Fathers in cinema. This is something that’s very near and dear to my heart. Being a father myself, I always tend to gravitate toward those strong male figures. Always seeing a piece of myself, or my dad, or my grandfather etc. While there are many films that could and should be highlighted, these four selected films will forever be pretty special to me.” ~ Donald Elise Watkins
Donald Elise Watkins is a talented actor from Greensboro, NC. He’s currently filming Appletv+‘s original film Project Artemis which stars Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum. Watkins can be seen in the feature film Emergency, which landed the Waldo Salt Screenwriting award at Sundance. He can currently be seen as a recurring character in the Amazon series The Underground Railroad, created by Barry Jenkins and based on the bestselling book of the same name. Prior credits include the Amazon feature Black Box, opposite Mamoudou Athie & Phylicia Rashad, the STX feature Free State of Jones opposite Matthew McConaughey & Mahershala Ali and the History Channel miniseries, Roots. Follow Donald Elise Watkins on IG @callmedonald
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Boyz N the Hood
Director: John Singleton Run Time: 112 min. Rating: R Release Year: 1991
Starring: Angela Bassett, Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Laurence Fishburne, Morris Chestnut
“Fantastic cast all around. Laurence Fishburne gives a masterful performance as Furious Styles in John Singleton’s debut film about a boy who goes to live with his father in south central LA, and the beauties and struggles of what that reality ultimately is. Definitely one of those films I watched when I was way too young but it still had such an impact. Such raw and gripping emotion. It’s a different kind of coming of age story that wasn’t always represented cinematically. Easy classic.” ~ Donald Elise Watkins, guest curator of Black Cinema 2023
Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is sent to live with his father, Furious Styles (Larry Fishburne), in tough South Central Los Angeles. Although his hard-nosed father instills proper values and respect in him, and his devout girlfriend Brandi (Nia Long) teaches him about faith, Tre’s friends Doughboy (Ice Cube) and Ricky (Morris Chestnut) don’t have the same kind of support and are drawn into the neighborhood’s booming drug and gang culture, with increasingly tragic results.
John Daniel Singleton was an American director, screenwriter, and producer. He made his feature film debut writing and directing Boyz n the Hood (1991), for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, becoming, at age 24, the first African American and youngest person to have ever been nominated for that award. One of the most successful and groundbreaking directors in African-American cinema, Singleton’s films including Poetic Justice (1993), Higher Learning (1995), Rosewood (1997), Shaft (2000), and Baby Boy (2001) represented the African-American experience in urban populations, focusing on themes such as black masculinity, trauma, racism and ethnicity. Singleton was also known for casting rappers/musicians in prominent roles such as Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, Janet Jackson, Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes, Tyrese Gibson, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris and André 3000.
“It’s always risky to proclaim a new force in film based upon just one film, but Boyz N the Hood is good enough to suggest that John Singleton is going to be a major player for a long time.” ~Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune
Daddy’s Little Girls
Director: Tyler Perry Run Time: 100 min. Rating: PG-13 Release Year: 2007
Starring: Gabrielle Union, Idris Elba, Louis Gossett Jr., Tasha Smith, Tracee Ellis Ross
“On the surface this film reads a little melodramatic at times but Tyler Perry does a great job blending comedic elements with some very real situations. Idris Elda is magnetic and creates a character you can’t help but root for. Very overlooked in my opinion.” ~ Donald Elise Watkins, guest curator of Black Cinema 2023
Monty is a mechanic struggling to make ends meet as he raises his three young daughters. When the court awards custody of his daughters to his shady ex-wife, Monty desperately tries to win them back with the help of Julia, a beautiful, Ivy League-educated attorney. Monty and Julia couldn’t be less alike, but a flame is ignited…touching off a firestorm of love and conflict.
The mastermind behind 17 feature films, 20 stage plays, seven television shows, a New York Times bestselling book, Tyler Perry has built an empire that has attracted audiences and built communities, from the Tyler Perry Studios home base in Atlanta, Georgia, throughout the world. Celebrated “among the pantheon of today’s greatest cinematic innovators,” his unique blend of spiritual hope and down-home humor continues to shape his inspiring life story, connecting with fans across the globe and always leaving space to dream.
“Dismissed by critics but embraced by African-American audiences, Tyler Perry now opens his pictures without press previews, but on the basis of this expert melodrama he might want to reconsider.” ~ J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader
Director: Ryan Coogler Run Time: 82 min. Rating: R Release Year: 2013
Starring: Chad Michael Murray, Kevin Durand, Melonie Diaz, Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer
“This is one of my favorite films. I think this is Michael B Jordan’s best performance. Ryan Coogler creates a world here so nuanced and relatable that I would lose myself in the ease and naturalness and forget that I was watching a film. Tremendous film.” ~ Donald Elise Watkins, guest curator of Black Cinema 2023
Though he once spent time in San Quentin, 22-year-old black man Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) is now trying hard to live a clean life and support his girlfriend (Melonie Diaz) and young daughter (Ariana Neal). Flashbacks reveal the last day in Oscar’s life, in which he accompanied his family and friends to San Francisco to watch fireworks on New Year’s Eve, and, on the way back home, became swept up in an altercation with police that ended in tragedy. Based on a true story.
Ryan Coogler is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. He is a recipient of four NAACP Image Awards, four Black Reel Awards, a Golden Globe Award nomination and an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. He made his feature-length debut with the independent film Fruitvale Station (2013), which won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. It also won at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, for Best First Film. He has since co-written and directed films such as the Rocky series spinoff, Creed (2015), and the Marvel film Black Panther (2018), the latter of which broke numerous box office records and became the highest-grossing film of all time by an African American director. Coogler also co-wrote and directed its sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022). Coogler’s films have received widespread acclaim and commercial success. His work has been hailed by critics for centering on often overlooked cultures and characters—most notably African Americans.
“This is a film for the people, a film for feelers and thinkers who want to see a story about a flawed person who loved his daughter and family.” ~ Nijla Mu’min, Shadow and Act
Director: Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, Jr. Run Time: 100 min. Release Year: 2020
Starring: Amanda Christine, Charmaine Bingwa, Mamoudou Athie, Phylicia Rashād, Tosin Morohunfola
“This is one of the most underrated films of the last few years. Psychological thriller about a man trying to regain his memory and connect with his daughter and life that he once knew. The chemistry between Mamodou Athie and Amanda Christine is heartwarming. Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour blends genres here seamlessly and keeps you engaged and on the edge of your seat.” ~Donald Elise Watkins, guest curator of Black Cinema 2023
Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr.’s fascinating directorial debut “Black Box” concerns the lifeline of memory, and one man’s lack of it. Mamoudou Athie stars as Nolan, a photographer who survived a car accident that took his wife and gave him amnesia, making it hard to connect with his daughter. In their sweet but heartbreaking relationship, she has taken to writing reminders about regular domestic functions on Post-its, scattered throughout the house. But when it comes to his wife and the relationship they shared, he has many questions, which eke out from Athie’s sensitive performance.
Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, Jr. is an award-winning writer-director born and raised in Houston, Texas. He started his career in Japan where he developed a passion for telling authentic, sensitive human-centered stories. His films have screened and won awards at over 50 film festivals internationally including Cannes, Toronto, Palm Springs, the NBC Short Film Festival, Pan African Film Festival, and more. And as a commercial director, his work has garnered 6 Addy Awards.
“When you watch a debut like Black Box, you just know that the director is going to be around for a while.” ~ Nick Allen, RogerEbert.com