Celebrate black history month by watching the works of these 10 history-making directors

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Amma Asante 

Best Known For: Winning a BAFTA award for Best Debut Feature for A Way of Life, directing indie hit Belle 10 years later. 

Notable Works: Belle (2014)A United Kingdom (2016)

Forthcoming: Where Hands Touch (2017)

Ava DuVernay 

Best Known For: Being the first black woman to win Best Director at Sundance, the first black woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Director and being the first black woman to direct a movie nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. 

Notable Works: Middle of Nowhere (2012), Selma (2014)

Forthcoming: A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

Julie Dash 

Best Known For: Being the first black American woman to have a feature length film be theatrically distributed in the U.S.

Notable Works: Daughters of the Dust (1991)

Forthcoming: Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl (2016)

Safi Faye 

Best Known For: This Senagalese woman became the first Sub-Saharan woman to have a film be commercially distributed in 1976. 

Notable Works: Letter From My Village (1976), Mossane (1996)

Forthcoming: N/A.

Kasi Lemmons 

Best Known For: With all four of her feature films released theatrically in the U.S. she currently holds the record as the black woman director with the most commercially distributed films. 

Notable Works: Eve’s Bayou (1997) 

Forthcoming: Agaat, On Beauty


My whole life I have escaped into dreams and fantasy. Through depression and anxiety, escapism kept me alive. Escapism allowed me to not think about the things I couldn’t fix, escapism allowed me to see myself in a better life, in a better place. Escapism made me hope. Dreams gave me goals. Fantasy kept me strong, kept me breathing and made me think I could one day be happy. 

All our lives we are  told dreaming is immature, escapism is childish and irresponsible. We are told fantasy is for children, we are told adults live in the real world, that we are not allowed to play videogames or watch cartoons. That daydreaming is a waste of time. 

Yet here is an adult man, with a stellar career, holding a Golden Globe for Best Director and telling me I was right and they were wrong. That we need fantasy, that we need dreams, that we need to believe in something beyond taxes and jobs and disease and death. That we should dream about love that defies boundaries, about defeating monsters created from our flaws, about glory and triumph over evil.

Thank you, Guillermo Del Toro, for telling me I am allowed to daydream as a 26 year old and it doesn’t make me less of an adult, just more of a human.

Let’s talk for a minute here

About Guillermo del Toro winning the Golden Globe for best director for The Shape of Water. (Warning, there may be some spoilers here, I will try to keep them vague)

I know it was overshadowed by Oprah’s speech (which I’m not blaming, it was a good speech, with a powerful message which I’m sure, at least I hope, made us all take pause and tear up) but del Toro created another masterpiece with the Shape of Water. He is the voice for all monsters everywhere. And when I say monsters, I do not just mean the ones of the fantasy world, I mean those of us who feel like monsters in society: the disabled, the mentally ill, the chronically ill, the LGBT+ community, etc. Del Toro wrote of friendships that even today are challenged by society. A friendship of different races in a time where blacks were openly attacked, a gay man who was not written to be the tragic romantic hero like so many other movies portray the LGBT+ community today but he thrived in what made him feel most like a human being, his friendship with Eliza and his gorgeous art. (Thank you @rowanliddell for that insight) And! Del Toro even addressed the fetishization that so many of us “monsters” of society face when he had the villain come on to Eliza. He juxtaposes this so beautifully when the supposed “monster” gives Eliza real, unadulterated love. When Eliza gives the line, “When he looks at me, he doesn’t see that I am incomplete” that resonated deep within me. 

Personal story-time for a minute. I am one of the “monsters of society”. I am a dwarf. I have been ridiculed by society and treated very much the same way as the monsters of Guillermo del Toro’s stories. I have only had two boyfriends in my whole life. Both loved me very much, and I am still very close to them but one did fetishize (is this even a word?) me a bit. The other, never looked at me as if I was different, never treated me special just because of how I was, only because of how he loved me. There was only one moment, and that was when he asked me polite questions about how he could better take care of me in the future in regards to my condition, which to me showed his consideration. 

I applaud Guillermo del Toro for writing a story that needs to be heard in this day. So many of us are seen as monsters when we are not. And the best part, he gives us a happy ending to this story, giving all of us “monsters” hope for our own happy endings. He embraces us all openly and that’s why he is easily my favorite director. Yes, he was one of the “all male nominees” for the Golden Globe but regardless I think he absolutely deserves it. He used his male privilege in the best way he could. Thank you, del Toro for creating such a beautiful story for us, and congratulations.  

Ava DuVernay b. August 24, 1972

DuVernay is an American filmmaker and distributor. 

She graduated from UCLA with a double major in English literature and Africa-American studies. After graduation DuVernay began to work as a publicist for movies, eventually creating her own successful publicity firm. From 1999 to 2011 she is credited as doing publicity work on nearly 100 films and TV shows. While doing the work DuVernay developed a desire to become a filmmaker in her own right.  

In 2006 she directed her first short film Saturday Night Life. She followed this up with several short documentaries. In 2010 she made her feature film debut with the film I Will Follow which she entirely self-funded using $50,000 of her own money. Unable to find a distributor willing to release the film theatrically she created the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM) and distributed the film herself.

By 2012 DuVernay made her second film Middle of Nowhere. With the film DuVernay achieved a long-standing goal to have her work shown at the Sundance Film Festival. Not only was it screened in the U.S. dramatic competition category but DuVernay also won the Best Director award making her the first African-American woman to win that category. 

Despite the festival success of Middle of Nowhere no distributors were willing to give the movie a theatrical release. DuVernay again released her film via AFFRM. She was offered work directing TV and commercials, but no movie offers came her way. In 2013 however David Oyelowo, who had starred in Middle of Nowhere, was attached to the movie Selma which had recently lost director Lee Daniels who wanted more money to make the film. Oyelowo asked the producers to consider hiring DuVernay which they did as she was willing to make the film for a budget of $20 million, re-write the script with no credit and the limitation that none of Martin Luther King jr’s speeches could actually be used. 

Selma was DuVernay’s first film with a studio distributor, an awards campaign, and a wide release. She became the first black woman nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Director and the first black woman to direct a Best Picture nominee at the Oscars. 

In 2015 DuVernay, who had kept AFFRM open and continued to give theatrical distribution to small films directed and or/starring African-Americans, partnered with Netflix and re-branded her company as ARRAY revealing that the scope of the distribution company would now also include a mandate to focus on films directed by women. 

The following year DuVernay partnered with Oprah’s company OWN to create the miniseries Queen Sugar for which she hired a directorial crew made up entirely of women. She also announced that she had secretly been filming a documentary called 13th, which would debut at the 2016 New York Film Festival making her the first person to have a documentary open the festival and the first black woman to open the festival. DuVernay also became the first black female director to be nominated for Best Documentary for her work on the film 

She is currently working on an adaptation of the book A Wrinkle in Time for Disney, a film with a budget of over $100 million making her only the fifth woman and first black woman to direct a live-action movie with a budget that size. 


Guillermo del Toro’s acceptance speech at the 75th Golden Globes for Best Director.


“I’m Mexican”. 

The directors category in any awards show is always such a sausage fest and there are hardly ever any women nominated. And only 1 has ever WON an Oscar. They haven’t announced the Oscar noms yet but Greta Gerwig not being nominated at the Golden Globes for best director for Lady Bird is a travesty. That movie has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and everyone loves it and it is Greta’s first solo directing gig PLUS she wrote the screenplay. (She is nominated for that at least.) I will be praying for the Oscar nomination. She deserves it!