The key to keeping Black cinema alive is not to see big budget films produced by George Lucas, but to watch independent films coming from the next Spike Lees and Robert Townsends, who use small budgets to tell distinct Black stories that directly relate to our community.I have had the privilege of seeing several independent Black movies via the Black film festival circuit and here are 10 movies I recommend seeing. Not all movie will be in your local theaters, but all should be available via iTunes, NetFlix, Video On Demand or DVD sometime this year. If you are disappointed by representations of African Americans in Film and lack of recognition of Black talent please support these movies so Black people can determine how they are represented in the media.
10. Ghett’a Life
“Ghetta Life” is a Jamaican movie that shows the political violence and poverty in Jamaica while telling the tale of a young man who tries to escape slum life via boxing. The movie premiered at the Caribbean Tales Film Festival in Toronto last year to critical acclaim.
9. Let’s Stay Together
“Let’s Stay Together” was directed by Joshua Bee Alafia and tells the story of a man who makes a documentary on Black families while being inspired by Al Green. The movie was screened at the New Voices In Black Cinema Festival this year to a great reception.
8. Last Laugh
“Last Laugh” is a mockumentary directed by Kenny Young and starring Chris Rock’s younger brother, Tony Rock. The movie is both funny and moving as it tells the story of a comedian who struggles with drug abuse as he resurrects his once promising career.
7. Monkey Gang: The Mockumentary
“Monkey Gang: The Mockumentary” is a fake documentary about a fictional rap group who embody everything that is wrong about hip hop. The movie was directed by Montaigne “Mr. M” Massac and screened at the Hollywood Black Film Festival last year and will screen at the Queens World Film Festival Friday March 2nd.
6. Lesson Before Love
“Lesson Before Love” tells the story of four Black professionals looking for romance and success in their respective career fields. Directed by Dui Jarrod, the film showcases a different part of Black American romance that hasn’t been seen since “Love Jones.” The movie has screened at the Hollywood Black Film Festival last year and the New Voices In Black Cinema Festival this year.
5. Inside Story
“Inside Story” tells the tale of an underdog South African soccer team and also deals with the bringing awareness to AIDS/HIV in South Africa. Inside story made its U.S. premiere at the Pan African Film Festival this year.
Though “Pariah” debuted in 2011 to a limited release it will officially be released on DVD and Video On Demand on April 24th of 2012. The movie, directed by Dee Rees, tells the story of Alike, a teenage African American lesbian who struggles to come to grips with her identity and her relationship with her family. The movie premiered at Sundance last year and won the the John Cassavettes Independent Spirit Award for best movie made with a budget under $500,000 this year.
3. Better Mus Come
“Better Mus Come” tells the story of a young man caught up in the political violence in the turbulent late 70s in Jamaica. The movie directed by Jamaican, Storm Saulter made it U.S. premiere at the Pan African Film Festival this year, where Saulter won the award for best director.
2. A Million Colours
“A Million Colours” is a true story about a Black South African child movie star and his story of friendship, love and crime during the struggle against apartheid. The movie stars South African Idol winner, Wandile Molebatsi and had its American premiere at the Hollywood Black Film Festival last year.
1. Middle Of Nowhere
“Middle Of Nowhere tells the story of Ruby, a woman whose husband becomes imprisoned for eight years. The movie was directed by movie publicist turned producer and director, Ava Davernay, who became the first Black woman to win the Best Director Award at the Sundance Film Festival this year.