All hail the heroines of cinema! No, we’re not talking about the Hollywood starlets. Though we still love them, we’re saluting the game-changers behind the camera, calling the shots and taking names.
Although Hollywood isn’t the first to jump at supporting minority fueled films—with a handful of exclusions like TV powerhouse Shonda Rhimes, who’s relentless primetime domination continues in unapologetic—some ladies are still making ripples in Tinsel Town.
Who was the first black female director nominated for a Golden Globe? Who directed Beyoncé in Cadillac Records? If you don’t know the answer to any of these questions, read on. We’re celebrating black female directors who don’t always get recognition from Hollywood.
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The living legend Julie Dash broke new ground in 1991 when her film Daughters of the Dust was picked up for theatrical distribution in the U.S., an unprecedented movement. She went on to direct films including The Rosa Parks Story starring Angela Bassett, which won Dash an a nomination from the Director’s Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television.
The first black woman in history to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director. After taking Hollywood by storm with the critically-acclaimed film Selma, the biopic about Martin Luther King, Jr., DuVernay continues to raise the bar for Hollywood directors.
You may not know her name, but we bet her first directed feature film is one of your favorites. Prince-Bythewood broke into mainstream after directing the 2000 romantic drama Love and Basketball. Since then, the writer directed two more films, including the 2014 drama, Beyond the Lights.
British director Amma Asante achieved critical success after writing and directing her debut film, A Way of Life in 2004. She directed her sophomore flick, Belle, about a mixed race girl raised in 18th century England in 2013.
Debuting in Hollywood with the southern-voodoo film Eve’s Bayou—starring a young Jurnee Smollet and Megan Good—Kasi Lemmons effortlessly became one to watch. She went on to direct the drama The Caveman’s Valentine with Samuel L. Jackson, and Talk to Me, starring Don Cheadle. In 2013, she wrote and directed the star-studded musical, Black Nativity.
Few female directors can boast of directing the one and only Beyoncé, and Martin is one of them. From Grey’s Anatomy to Oz to ER, Martin has found her niche in both TV and feature film directing, showing no signs of slowing down. In 2008, she jumped back into film, writing and directing Cadillac Records (based on Chess Records), where Queen Bey played Etta James.
When Spike Lee backs you, you know you’re an amazing talent. Rees, who studied at NYU’s Film School, went from interning for Lee to directing her own movie, Pariah, which eventually became a feature film in 2011. The 27-year-old’s current project includes Queen Latifah in the HBO biopic about Bessie Smith.