Dee Rees, director of Pariah (Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)
Dee Rees, director of Pariah (Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

Have you seen Pariah? The 2011 coming-of-age film about a young lesbian was a Sundance darling. What about An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, a film that blended real-life actors with animation to tell the story of a man grief-stricken over a breakup? Or maybe you saw Medicine for Melancholy, a romantic indie film about two strangers who spend the day together after a one-night stand.

None of these films are alike, but all three have one thing in common: Their directors are black, and the New York Times included the three of them in its profile of "20 Directors to Watch."

We weren’t interested in promoting an idea of cinematic correctness or in fabricating an arbitrary new “wave.” We weren’t looking for diversity, even if we happily found it: 25 percent of our directors, for instance, are women, well above the American average. Fewer than half are North American. Male or female, black or white, Londoners or Brooklynites, these 20 do not represent a school, a movement or a generational cohort. What they do represent is the persistence of personal vision and the resilience of cinema, which in its second century remains a young art form with a bright future.


Of Dee Rees, the director of Pariah, the Times writes:

This is how much people love Dee Rees: The Philip K. Dick estate gave Ms. Rees the rights to his novel “Martian Time-Slip” basically free, and her adaptation of Toni Morrison’s novel “Home” has been blessed by the goddess herself. 

Terence Nance's work is, they admit, somewhat of an enigma:

“An Oversimplification of Her Beauty,” is an impossible-to-describe blend of animation, memoir and essay film, on the subject of romantic misunderstanding. Its voice is so arresting and original that the film is perhaps best explained by the director himself, who was born in Dallas and lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn …

“First, the script was written in the form of a song: verse, chorus, verse; chorus, bridge vamp and so on. But also the blues to me as a formal space is about taking an everyday experience with pain and memorializing it in a way that makes it melodic, funny and melodramatic. I think Toni Morrison’s books inspired me … "


Barry Jenkins, the director of Medicine for Melancholy, is given a short Q&A.

Talk about your identity as a filmmaker.

I’m a black filmmaker. I must be. When I think of characters, or rather, when characters come to me — as the best ones do, outside of conscious thought — overwhelmingly they are black. And when I introduce these characters and films into the production framework of this industry, the funding and distribution “restrictions” I’m met with as a result of those characters’ blackness would remind me, if it weren’t clear already, that I am indeed black.


Short snippets of the work of all three directors are also featured in the interactive feature.

Read more at the New York Times.

Jozen Cummings is the author and creator of the popular relationship blog Until I Get Married, which is currently in development for a television series with Warner Bros. He also hosts a weekly podcast with WNYC about Empire called Empire Afterparty, is a contributor at and works at Twitter as an editorial curator. Follow him on Twitter.

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