The art of Kevin Blythe Sampson

THE ART OF
KEVIN BLYTHE SAMPSON

11/19/10

For Colored Girls: Films Every Sister Should See


Actresses Alfre Woodard and Nicole Beharie are shown in a scene from the 2008 movie, "American Violet."

When director Julie Dash was seeking distribution funding for her debut film "Daughters of the Dust," a producer told her, “Nobody wants to be a black woman for two hours.” Hmmph.

The recent release of Tyler Perry’s film adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf" has reinvigorated discussion about black women in film, how we are seen and who tells our stories. The ensemble cast features some of the best actresses of our time - who also happen to have had the great good fortune of being born black and female. We exist. And our stories, like Shange’s love, is too delicate/beautiful/sanctified/magic/saturday nite/complicated/music to have thrown back in our faces.

In honor of our image, here are a few films every black woman should see, lest your card be revoked.


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EVE’S BAYOU (1997)

Ten-year-old Eve Batiste (played by an exceptional Jurnee Smollett) tells the story about her Louisiana family and the summer of 1962 — the year, she says in the opening minutes, she killed her father. Its outstanding cast includes Samuel L. Jackson as father Louis Batiste, along with Lynn Whitfield, Diahann Carroll, Megan Good and Debbi Morgan as Mozelle Batiste Delacroix, Eve’s widowed aunt who has the gift of sight. Directorial debut by actress Kasi Lemmons.

Why watch? Plain ol’ awesome and layered dramatic storytelling.


DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST (1991)

Director Julie Dash wanted to tell a story about African-Americans at the turn of the century, particularly the Gullah people from the South Carolina Sea Islands, once a slave port. Narrated by an unborn daughter, "Daughters" is the story of the Pezant family and their gathering before some of the family relocates up North.

Why watch? Cinematographer Arthur Jafa and his eye for striking beauty, including beautiful black women in white; the exploration of Gullah culture and honoring of ancestors.


DANCEHALL QUEEN (1997)

A Jamaican cult classic! Street vendor and single mother Marcia is ekeing out a living in Kingston, Jamaica, and has become dependent upon financial help from Larry, a shady businessman. When “Uncle Larry” begins making advances at one of her daughters and the support systems Marcia’s been leaning on disappear, she finds an unexpected solution to her woes in the dancehall.

Why watch? Pure, empowering, wind-up-your-waist fun.


CLAUDINE (1974)

Diahann Carroll plays Claudine, a single mother of six in Harlem, who finds love with a proud and charming garbage collector named Rupert Marshall (James Earl Jones.)

Why watch? In addition to Carroll’s Oscar-nominated performance and brief JEJ nudity, there’s the soundtrack: Music and lyrics composed and produced by Curtis Mayfield and performed by Gladys Knight and The Pips. It gets no better.


MAHOGANY (1975)

Diana Ross plays Tracy Chambers, an aspiring designer from Chicago’s South side, who works in a department store and assists her underdog politician boyfriend (played by Billy Dee Williams). After being discovered by a top fashion photographer (Anthony Perkins), Tracey - now renamed Mahogany - travels to Rome to embark on a modeling career, where she must ultimately decide between the glamorous life and love.

Why watch? The killer fashion, which fits Ross to a T; the recurring “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)?” and creepy Perkins getting the beat down by Billy Dee.


FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE/WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF (1982)

This PBS-televised production of Ntozake Shange’s play featuring then up-and-coming actresses Alfre Woodard and Lynn Whitfield. It was also directed by Oz Scott, who helmed the Broadway production.

Why watch? Other than the sweet, powerful poetry and performances? Shange herself stars, reading to her real-life daughter.


SET IT OFF (1996)

Four young blackgirls from South .....

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For Colored Girls: Films Every Sister Should See