Tag Archives: Ava DuVernay

#BestOf2017 – Seven Sistas Who Did the DAMN Thing in 2017

2017 has been an interesting year.  Despite the ups and downs, these women have given us some amazing and memorable works of art.  They have changed they way I look at life., given us something to talk about and given us hope for the future of television and film.  So with a few hours to spare, I give you my #BestOf2017 list of seven sistas who did the damn thing in 2017.  Enjoy!

Ava DuVernay, director of Jay-Z’s “Family Feud” videoAva DuVernay ended 2017 on the highest note. She damn near broke the internet when the video she directed for Jay-Z ‘s “Family Feud” dropped.  The video short film features a star-studded lineup and paints an amazing future for America. In 8 minutes Ava built a world where women not only have a seat at the table, they run it. It is EPIC!

Tiffany Haddish as “Dina” in Girls Trip and EVERYWHERE else

2017 belongs to Tiffany Haddish.  From her breakout role in Girls Trip to her historic turn as host of Saturday Night Live, everything she does turns to gold. Additionally, she helmed her first stand-up special, She Ready,  for Showtime and found time to release her book, The Last Black Unicorn.  And she is JUST getting started.  Tiffany’s 2018 is looking bright as well.

Bianca Lawson as “Darla” on Queen SugarSeven Sistas of Television

Bianca Lawson has been killing it onscreen for YEARS.  But playing Darla on Queen Sugar has given her fans a chance to see a different side of her acting talent.  Darla, a  former drug-addicted sex worker is unlike any character we’ve seen on television in the past. Supported by amazing writing, Bianca embodies strength, vulnerability, and hope in her portrayal of Darla.  I can’t wait to see where the story and the character go next.

Stella Meghie, director of Everything, Everything


Stella Meghie made #BlackWomenDirect headlines in 2017.  She is the only black female director at the helm of a studio-backed film released in 2017. This statistic is even more impactful  because Everything, Everything is only Stella’s second feature film. Boasting an amazing cast that includes Amandla Stenburg and Anika Noni Rose, the film is a charming and delightful story of young love.

Lena Waithe as “Denise”on Master of None and badass Emmy Winner
Seven Sistas of Television

Master on None was released this year.  The highlight of the season was “Thanksgiving,” an episode co-written by series regular Lena Waithe.  The episode centers around Denise’s coming out story. Hands down, it is one of the most well-written episodes of television this year.  This sentiment was cosigned by the Academy when the Lena and Dev Patel won the Emmy for Comedy Writing, making her the first black woman to receive the honor. If you missed it, you can check out her AMAZING acceptance speech here.

Susan Kelechi Watson as “Beth Pearson” on This Is Us

Seven Sistas of Television
Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Susan Kelechi Watson is a joy to watch onscreen. Let’s keep it real. The show is called This is Us, but the “us” we are MOST interested in are Beth and Randall. And to be realer than real, Beth Pearson, played by Susan is the MVP of the Pearson family.  Beth is the voice of reason, the keeper of clarity, and the one that we can ALWAYS count on to keep it real. And we have come to count on Susan to deliver masterful performances each week.  She is us.

DeWanda Wise as “Nola Darling” on She’s Gotta Have It and “Shameeka Campbell” on Shots Fired

DeWanda Wise had an AMAZING 2017. She starred in two critically acclaimed shows, Shots Fired and She’s Gotta Have It.  These characters could not be more different. One is a single mother navigating the grief of losing a child to police violence and the other is a young, sex-positive single girl navigating life in New York.  DeWanda portrays each masterfully, convincingly, and with haunting sense of presence and truth.  She is simply a pleasure to watch.

In Short – Say Yes

This beautiful and fun short film is full of black girl awesomeness!!!  Not only does it star the gorgeous and talented actress, Kali Hawk,  but it also boasts cameos fro Aasha Davis,  Issa Rae, Victoria Mahoney, Ashley Blaine  Featherson, Lena Waithe, Lorraine Toussaint, Beverly Todd, Julie Dash and a host of others.

Written by: Ava DuVernay

Directed by: Ava DuVernay

Starring: Kali Hawk and Lance Gross

Produced by: Howard Barish

Co-Produced by: Tilane Jones

The 411: “Say Yes” was inspired by the Fashion Fair lip color called “Say Yes.” The film “explores the power of the affirmative, and the beauty that blossoms from embracing life.” In the film a woman is greeted at hoe by a host of friends and family before she gets the surprise of her life.  This film is an amazing example of the joy and happiness. For more information go to www.avaduvernay.com or to connect with the filmmaker, follow Ava via Twitter.com/AVAETC.


Women’s Herstory: Eight Historic Black Women in Film

March 8th is a day of celebration.  All across the world, this day is heralded as International Women’s Day.  To honor this day (as well as Women’s Herstory Month), I am highlighting eight historic black women in the  film.

Madame Sul-Te-Wan 

Madame Sul Te Wan 3

Madame Sul-Te-Wan worked in Hollywood for over 50 years, but very few people know of her name or her extensive body of work. Born Nellie Crawford in 1873 to freed slaves, Madame began acting at a theatre company in Cincinnati. After arriving in Hollywood, she soon adopted the name Madame Sul-Te-Wan and approached DW Griffith about appearing in his film Birth of Nation. The two developed a friendship that would last until his death.  Throughout her career, Madame appeared in over 50 film and television productions, though many were uncredited.


Maria P. Williams

RA MAria P. WIlliams

Maria P. Williams is believed to be the first African-American female film producer.  There is very little information out there about Maria or her film.  What we do know is that Maria’s film Flames of Wrath was released in 1923. Along with her husband Jesse, she owned the Western Film Producing Company and Booking Exchange.


Hattie McDaniel

Hattie McDaniel is the first African-American woman to win an Academy Award.  In 1939 she won for her performance as Mammy in Gone With The Wind. Throughout her career she faced criticism for portraying roles that some believed furthered the established stereotypes of black people to which she famously responded:  “I’d rather make $700 a week playing a maid than earn $7 a day being a maid.”


Euzhan Palcy

PHOTO Euzhan Palcy

Euzhan Palcy has the distinction of being the first black female director to have a film produced by a major Hollywood Studio.  In 1989 her film A Dry White Season, starring the legendary Marlon Brando was produced by MGM studios. Born in Martinique, Euzhan studied at the Sorbonne and was handpicked by Robert Redford to participate in the 1984 Sundance Director’s Lab. Euzhan was also the first black woman to win a Cesar Award (the French equivalent to the Academy Awards in the US) for best first feature film for her film  Sugar Cane Alley.


Darnell Martin

RS Darnell Martin

Darnell Martin is the first African-American woman to write and direct a feature film for a major Hollywood studio.  In 1994 Columbia Pictures released I Like It Like That, starring Lauren Velez, Lisa Vidal, and Rita Moreno. The film was a critical success and solidified Darnell as a director with talent and finesse.


Halle Berry

It's Oscar Night!!

Halle Berry is the first African-American woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress.  She was awarded in 2002 for her role in the film Monster’s Ball. In her famously emotional acceptance speech, Halle paid homage to the black actresses that paved the way for her win, including her idol Dorothy Dandridge. In 1999 Halle portrayed Dandridge in the HBO film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.  For her role she was awarded the Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards.


Debra Chase

Debra Martin Chase

Debra Chase is the first African-American woman to have a solo producing deal with a major studio. She ran both Denzel Washington’s and Whitney Houston’s production companies before forming her own, Martin Chase Productions in 2000. Debra’s producing credits include Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Just Wright, and Sparkle (2012).


Ava DuVernay


Ava DuVernay founded AFFRM, the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement. AFFRM is a film distribution model that works with film festival organizations to orchestrate theatrical releases for two independent films a year. AFFRMs first release, the critically acclaimed I Will Follow, was written and directed by Ava.  In 2012 she made history when she became the first African-American woman to win the Best US Director Award at the Sundance Film Festival.  She received the award for her second feature film, Middle of Nowhere.

What other historic women in film will you celebrate?

In Short – The Door

This beautiful and inspiring short film is food to my black girl soul. Not only does it star one of my favorite actresses in the world, the awesome Gabrielle Union, but it is also directed by one of my favorite directors, Ava DuVernay. Created for the Miu Miu Women’s Tale series, the film effortlessly combines film, fashion, and music.

Written by: Ava DuVernay

Directed by: Ava DuVernay

Starring: Gabrielle Union, Adepero Oduye, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Goapele, and Alfre Woodard

Produced by: Howard Barish and Ava DuVernay

The 411: “The Door” is the fifth Miu Miu Women’s Tale. The film is “a celebration of the transformative power of feminine bonds, and a symbolic story of life change.” In the film a woman is visited by several friends and family as she deals with a traumatic experience. She draws on the strength of others to gain her own. This film is an amazing example of the bonds of female friendship. For more information go to www.miumiu.com and to connect with the filmmaker, follow Ava via Twitter.com/AVAETC.

Four Reasons You NEED To See Middle of Nowhere

Yesterday,  I went to go see Middle of Nowhere for the second time in four days.  The first time I saw it, I enjoyed it.  But I wanted to watch it again, to pin point why I found it so appealing.  I have literally been waiting to see this film since writer and director Ava DuVernay announced that the project was happening.  I absolutely loved her first feature film, I Will Follow and became an instant fan.  So, I wanted to see Middle of Nowhere again to make sure that I wasn’t caught up in my own excitement. And I have to say that I enjoyed it more the second time than the first. Here are my top four reasons that you need to see Middle of Nowhere.

1. A Star is Born

Emayatzy Corinealdi completely shines as Ruby, a woman who puts her dreams on hold to support her husband who is incarcerated. Her performance is moving, understated, but extremely powerful.  Emayatzy has the most expressive and soulful eyes. In one scene in particular, her character is forced to ask her mother for help.  In that moment, the independent and determined Ruby morphs into a 12 year old child, and it’s all in the eyes.  It’s heartbreaking to watch. I guarantee that Emayatzy Corinealdi is a name that you will be hearing or years to come.

2. The Family Drama

The supporting cast in Middle of Nowhere is amazing. The always awesome Lorraine Toussaint plays the role of Ruth.  Her character is a single mother who does not want her now grown daughters repeating her mistakes.  I am a long-time fan of Lorraine, but Middle of Nowhere marks my first time seeing her on the big screen. Along with Edwina Findley, who plays sister Rosie,  the two women round out Ruby’s immediate family. What I love most about these three characters is the immediate connection I felt to them as a family. First of all, they look like they could be related in real life, which adds to their credibility.  But more importantly, the chemistry between these three women is palpable.  The scenes between Emayatzy and Edwina are filled with playful and supportive energy, like real sisters. And in every scene that features Lorraine, there is an immediate tension and a subtext of disappointment that simmers just below the surface, threatening to implode.  And at the the appointed time, a significant scene in the final act of the movie, when these feeling come to the surface, the result is nothing short of cinematic perfection. The scene is superbly well-acted, and lingers with you even after the credits roll.

3. The Subtle Core

Earlier this year, Karen Gilmore, Editor-in-Chief of Reel Artsy outlined what she calls the subtle core movement in black film.  According to Karen:

In the Subtle Core tone is key. These films ask hard questions. They’re character driven and invoke a sense of emotion, revealing unexplored spheres of black life. Sometimes they’re funny. But at their core, they reach for the dramatic moments. I like to think of them as descendents of French New Wave, in an offbeat modernized hybrid way.

In my opinion, Middle of Nowhere is an extension of the subtle core movement, and Ava DuVernay is leading the charge. I love how Ava celebrates the quiet, simple moments in the lives of black women.   Ava’s attention to detail is impeccable.  Acts as simple as applying lotion after a shower or wrapping one’s hair before bed add another layer of reality to a story that already resonates with the black female audience. The writing and direction in Middle of Nowhere is beyond deserving of all the accolades it has received.

4. Because Oprah Said So:

Okay not really because Oprah said so,  BUT it is pretty cool that she tweeted her support for Ava and for the film.  And she is not the only one.  Other well-known folks such as writers Tananarive Due (one of my faves) and Terry McMillan have also shown their support for the film as well.

If you have not seen Middle of Nowhere yet, check out the trailer below:

Middle of Nowhere opened October 12 in limited release with new cities being added weekly.  For more information on expansion cities, ticket information, and lots of other great content, check out AFFRM.com.




In Short – “Middle of Nowhere: Journey of an Indie”

What a treat! Watch this awesome all-access behind-the-scenes short documentary Middle of Nowhere: Journey of an Indie. It chronicles the casting process, production, and film’s historic run at Sundance and beyond.

The short includes interviews with director Ava DuVernay, producer Howard Barish, as well as the amazing cast which includes Emayatzy Corninealdi, Omari Harwick, David Oyelowo, Edwina Findley, and the amazing Lorraine Toussaint. The short originally aired on BET.

Check it out:

Middle of Nowhere is currently in it’s 3rd week and is playing in over 20 cities. For the most up-to-date information information on the film and to find out where it’s playing near you, check out www.middlenowhere.com