Earlier this month, I was inspired by a conversation on my podcast, Cinema in Noir to outline Six Characteristics of a Womanist Film. Since then, I have started a list of the womanist (and a few feminist) films that I think are essential viewing. Here are the first 15 films.
1. Imitation of Life (1934) – Directed by John M. Stahl and Written by William Hurlbut
In my opinion, this adaptation of the novel is far better than the 1954 version. In this version, Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers star as single mothers who become business owners while trying to raise their children.
2. Claudine (1974) – Directed by John Berry and Written by Lester and Tina Pine
Diahann Carroll stars as Claudine, a single mother who struggles to keep her family afloat. Despite the difficulties she faces, she refuses to become a statistic or a victim.
3. Nuts (1987) – Directed by Martin Ritt and Written by Tom Topor
After a violent encounter with a client, high end call girl Claudia, played by Barbra Streisand, fights for her right to stand trial after her parents try to have her declared insane.
4. The Joy Luck Club (1993) – Directed by Wayne Wang and Written by Amy Tan
Four Chinese American women explore the pasts of their mothers who were all born in China. While learning more about their mothers they are able to better understand them and the complicated relationships they have.
5. I Like It Like That (1994) – Directed and Written by Darnell Martin
Lauren Velez shines as a wife and mother who has to learn to support her family when her husband goes away
6. The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love (1995) – Directed and Written by Maria Maggenti
A love story between two young women of different social and economic backgrounds who find themselves going through all the typical struggles of young love.
7. Eve’s Bayou (1997) – Directed and Written by Kasi Lemmons
A beautiful film that explores love, lies, and the effects that secrets can have on a family. This film boasts amazing performances from Jurnee Smollett and Meagan Good.
8. Chutney Popcorn (1999) – Directed and Written by Nisha Ganatra
Lisette offers to help her sister who is suffering from issues with infertility. This decision causes some problems for her and her girlfriend.
9. Saving Face (2004) – Directed and Written by Alice Wu
A Chinese American daughter and her very traditional mother are both hiding secrets from each other.
10. American Violet (2008) – Directed by Tim Disney and Written by Bill Haney
Nicole Beharie stars as Regina Kelly, a woman who takes a stand against a corrupt system that threatens to send her to prison for 25 years over a bogus drug charge.
11. Mother and Child (2009) – Directed and Written by Rodrigo Garcia
This film centers around three women in different stages in life: a woman, the daughter she gave up for adoption, and another woman looking to adopt. Amazing performances all around.
12. Gun Hill Road (2011) – Directed and Written by Rashaad Ernesto Green
A young boy who is in the midst of a sexual transformation has his life abruptly interrupted when his father returns home after a stint in prison.
13. Pariah (2011) – Directed and Written by Dee Rees
A young woman is exploring her sexuality while juggling the expectations of her family.
14. Middle of Nowhere 2012) – Directed and Written by Ava Duvernay
The amazing Emayatzy Corinealdi plays a woman in limbo as she tries to live her life while her husband is away in prison
15. Free Angela and All Political Prisoners (2012) – Directed by Shola Lynch
This documentary examines the trial of Angela Davis and the media circus that surrounded her case.