All Articles Tagged "Shola Lynch"

Get ‘Em Girls! Five Oscar-Qualified Documentaries Were Directed By Black Women

November 14th, 2013 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Two of the notable directors from left to right, Shola Lynch and Marta Cunningham (standing with husband, James Frain). via WENN, Brian To/

Two of the notable directors from left to right, Shola Lynch and Marta Cunningham (standing with husband, James Frain). via WENN, Brian To/

Five African-American ladies have made a game-changing presence in the film industry this year with critically-acclaimed documentaries that may just get them the coveted Academy Award.

Shola Lynch directed Free Angela Davis And All Political Prisoners, a film that revisits Angela Davis’ revolutionist days as she joined the Communist Party and became a Black Panther. Angela Davis herself saw the film and noted that the documentary made her “uncomfortable.”

Lynch wasn’t offended by Davis’ comment, though. “[A]s a filmmaker and a journalist, [this] is a compliment. It clearly is not the story she would tell. She would tell a strictly political, deeply kind of philosophical piece. But for me, the interesting question is: Who is the person behind the iconography?” Reviewers praised Lynch for making Davis’ story accessible to a new generation. “[Lynch does a] sufficient job of giving the audience a sense of the setting, the era, the key figures,” IndieWire writes.

Another applaud-worthy Black filmmaker is Marta Cunningham whose documentary Valentine Road focuses on a student who fatally shot an eighth-grade transgender classmate. Cunningham says that she wanted to switch the audience’s perspective of Brandon, the accused murderer, from “monster” to a deeper point of understanding. The New York Times said the film was moving and “shows how intricate even the more horribly straightforward moments in life can be.”

Gideon’s Army, directed by Dawn Porter, follows three public defenders in the Deep South. “The only thing that stands between anybody and prison is a lawyer,” Porter said. “And if you’re poor, that person’s a public defender.” The documentary essentially details the trials and tribulations that public defenders face as they hold another person’s fate in their hands. The film was a New York Times Critic’s Pick and also won the Editing Award at the Sundance Festival.

Michele Stephenson’s film American Promise turns the camera on her own children and chronicles their educational growth from kindergarten all the way to high school. Winning the Documentary Special Jury Prize for Achievement in Filmmaking at Sundance, Stephenson may strike Oscar gold with her admired film.

Lastly, Yoruba Richen’s film, New Black, chronicles the Black church’s campaign to fight against gay marriage — a topic that MN has reported on recently. “Regardless what law they may write, God designed the family,” one preacher proclaimed in the documentary. So far, the documentary earned Richen the Best Documentary award at Urbanworld Film Festival.

IndieWire notes that while these films are getting attention within the film festival circuit, black film directors seem to have trouble getting support for Oscar consideration. “As we see a noteworthy number of black female doc directors qualifying for Oscars this year, it makes sense to highlight these films, if only in hopes that more voting members will be watching and taking note.”

All of this is happening in a year when films by and about African Americans are being praised by critics and support at the box office. Have you seen any of these films?

How My Black Is Beautiful’s “Imagine A Future” Documentary Proves The Cycle Of Self-Hate Can Be Broken

July 8th, 2013 - By Veronica Wells
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I’ve always had much respect for Proctor and Gamble’s “My Black Is Beautiful” campaign. After all it was started by six black women at the company and they do good work. And while the campaign seeks to uplift black women, I also realize it’s a way for P&G to continue to make money. Now, I’m not mad at them. We all want to make money. But since they are trying to make money, I’ll admit that I process their media differently than I would other P&G advertising. I’m constantly watching to make sure it’s still honest and that we, black women, aren’t being further exploited by another huge corporation.

And I can honestly say I haven’t seen that. The campaign has been run quite nicely. And that track record of fairness didn’t falter when they released a documentary entitled “Imagine a Future.”

Directed and produced by filmmaking heavy hitters like Lisa Cortes, Academy Award nominated for her producing role in Precious, directed by Shola Lynch, director of Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners and executive produced by “Black Girls Rock” founder Beverly Bond, the film had the right people behind the project.

And all of that came across in the story which follows Janet Goldsboro, a high school student who struggles with beauty and self esteem issues. Throughout the documentary we watch as Janet transforms when she visits South Africa to learn about the historical and societal context associated with being a black woman.

During her trip Janet learns about beauty standards that vary and are similar to the ones she’s been grown up with in the U.S. Her South African friend tells her that nobody wants to be skinny in South Africa but when she goes to the market, she sees how many places sell skin bleaching cream. There she learns about the earliest human ancestors, found in Africa and learns the tragic story of Sarah Baartman as she visited her gravesite.

After her trip to South Africa the change in Janet was visible. She went from a girl who was insecure about her looks and self confidence to a young woman who actively sought the standards of beauty that best matched her own. She started researching the history that was left out of her school’s curriculum so by knowing the truth of her past she could take pride in the young woman she is today.

Interspersed between Janet’s inspirational story, we hear black women like Gabourey Sidibe, Michaela Angela Davis, Tatyana Ali, Melissa Harris-Perry and Gabby Douglass talk about achieving their own self confidence and what makes them beautiful. It may sound cheesy but it was powerful. So powerful in fact that my mom leaned over to my sister and I and asked “why our black was beautiful?” We had to tell her not to ask the stranger sitting next to her because it really is a loaded question. The film really makes you think about your own levels of self confidence and beauty standards affect your everyday lives.

I walked out of the filming feeling hopeful and uplifted. Not to use one to tear down another but in many ways “Imagine A Future” filled the holes that “Dark Girls” didn’t. It talked about the lack of self esteem, the beauty standards many black women don’t meet but it also showed how that cycle can be broken. How these feelings don’t have to be permanent. And how, at the end of the day, we can be the solutions to our own insecurities.

Check out the trailer for the documentary on the next page.

For 40th Anniversary Of Title IX, ESPN Doing “Nine For IX” Documentaries On Women In Sports, Including Ava DuVernay’s “Venus VS.”

February 20th, 2013 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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For years, I’ve been a massive fan of most ESPN documentaries (I don’t think there’s one I’ve seen that I haven’t enjoyed), including the very creative “30 for 30” docs, which give many up and coming and little known but exceptional directors the chance to show their talents and tell stories from a different yet immensely deep angle. Maybe that’s why I’m so excited about the new “Nine for IX” series, an ode to the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the civil rights law of ’72 that “requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding,” according to the Title IX website. It has allowed young women everywhere to have the opportunity to play the sports of their choice, obtain higher education through these opportunities, employment and more. The nine films will be directed by women, and Robin Roberts, anchor for Good Morning America, is an executive producer for the project.

Among the nine films are a few big notables centered around black women, including Venus VS., by Middle of Nowhere director, Ava DuVernay. The film chronicles Williams’ choice to challenge the fact that female tennis players were being paid less than the males for huge tournaments like Wimbledon and the French Open, and her battle, which she won, made her the first women’s champion (during her win in 2007) to take home the same reward money as men’s winner Roger Federer.

DuVernay put out a statement about the film and to speak on the little-known impact of Williams in this particular equal earnings fight:

Venus is a superior athlete, a legend; but she is also an activist who revolutionized her sport off the court with her fight for prize equality. I don’t believe this story should be relegated to dusty history books and UK newspapers. People in the United States should know of her true professional bravery and personal tenacity in making sure women athletes are regarded and rewarded on par with their male counterparts. This is my mission.

Another great feature during the “Nine for IX” series will be Swoopes, a doc on the life of WNBA icon Sheryl Swoopes, as she has “defied a multitude of labels.” And Shola Lynch is behind the documentary, Runner, about Mary Decker. Of course, Decker had her Olympic moment stolen in the worst of ways when she collided with a fellow runner after being thought as being in the forefront for the gold medal in the 3,000m final during the ’84 Olympics.

But these of course are just a few of the documentaries ESPN is offering. You can check out the full lineup here. Starting on July 2, ESPN will debut the films, beginning with Venus Vs., and they will air until August 27. Check out the preview video for all nine films below!

Will you be watching?

Angela Davis Documentary Coming to Select Theaters in April

February 4th, 2013 - By CAP
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Angela Davis (left) and her niece, actress Eisa Davis, at a Toronto Film Festival event. AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Aaron Vincent Elkaim

Angela Davis (left) and her niece, actress Eisa Davis, at a Toronto Film Festival event. AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Aaron Vincent Elkaim

Just in time for Black History Month, Codeblack Films, a Lionsgate company, has announced that it is releasing Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, presented by BET Networks at select AMC locations in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., Oakland, Philadelphia and Atlanta on April 5, 2013.

This documentary of Angela Davis was directed and written by Shola Lynch, whose previous work includes Chisholm ’72- Unbought & Unbossed.  According to a press release for this film, Davis was inspired by Chisholm ’72 to “speak to young people in the 21st century and to give them a sense of what it means to feel collectively powerful and capable of changing the world.”

Jada Pinkett Smith also worked on Free Angela as an executive producer, with Overbrook Entertainment and Jay Z for Roc Nation and a number of other names in the entertainment industry. The film was a hit at the Toronto Film Festival a few months ago.

Angela Davis has been hailed as a political symbol and prominent activist in the 1960s for her involvement in the Civil Rights movement and affiliation with the Black Panthers. This film features Angela Davis’ own personal account of what led to her imprisonment. The story focuses on Davis as a young professor and social justice activist who is somehow implicated in a kidnapping attempt and a shootout that leaves four people dead. Davis ultimately lands on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list. She also became a global cause, with people around the world calling her a “political prisoner” and demanding her release. The documentary coincides with the 40th anniversary of Davis’ acquittal on charges of murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy.

Fun fact: Davis became such a celebrated cause that she was the inspiration for a song by John Lennon and Yoko Ono — “Angela” — and another by The Rolling Stones — “Sweet Black Angel.” IMDB also reminds us that Davis ran for VP of the US in 1980 and 1984 under the Communist Party umbrella.

After the jump, we’ve got the trailer. Will you watch this movie?