Black Female Directors On The Come Up–Ever So Slightly–In Hollywood

February 18, 2015  |  

The year 2104 was a big one for Black female directors. While the number may be underwhelming, three Black women directed movies last year–and this is more than ever before for a single year.

Looking at the total number of projects made last year–373–three doesn’t even seem like a drop in the bucket. But it is a significant landmark given that there just isn’t a large number of Black female filmmakers. According to a study done by the University of Southern California’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, over the past seven years, only three Black female directors were attached to the top 700 movies.

Initiative director Stacy L. Smith tells The Grio that more than 95 percent of the directors of top-grossing films during the past 10 years have been men and with top 700 films over the recent seven-year period, almost 90 percent of those directors were white.

But 2014 was the year it seems for the Black female director. After all, Selma director Ava DuVernay was nominated of Best Picture by the Academy Awards. She is in fact the only female director behind any Best Picture nominee.

Despite the advances, ever so slight, Black female directors don’t want 2014 to be a once in a lifetime good year.

“The push for me is that it doesn’t stay an anomaly,” said Gina Prince-Bythewood, who wrote and directed Beyond the Lights, which received an Oscar nomination this year for original song, “Grateful.”

Belle director Amma Asante says there needs to be more stories about women as well in Hollywood. When you look at all the films nominated this year for Best Picture, eight are films about men. According to Asante, the previous success of 12 Years A Slave, The Butler, and Mandela in 2013 could have paved the way for her, Prince-Bythewood, and DuVernay’s films being financed.

“We were lucky that they all got greenlit at a time when the films that came before us were showing that these films were important and they were attracting audiences,” she said.

Still there needs to be more Black women in Hollywood, DuVernay points out, adding, “Three is not enough. While we celebrate the three, we’re talking three in the hundreds of films that came out last year between the U.K. and the United States,” she said. “Unless (our success) equals more women being able to do the same thing next year — which legacy says is probably not going to happen — then we’re still at the same place.”

Despite the odds, keep pushing says DuVernay. “Stop waiting for someone to say it’s OK to move forward,” she said. “You just have to find a way to make the work. … You have to make it with what you have and by any means necessary.” 

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