THEY RUN THE SHOW: Black women directors to watch in 2024

Even though there’s been a lot of talk about the Academy Awards trying to be more diverse, the fact remains that it’s still very difficult for movies directed by Black women to be nominated for Oscars. 

In 2024, only one Black female director received an Oscar nomination — and it was for a short film: “The Barber of Little Rock” documentary. This was a slight improvement over 2023, when there were no Black women directors who received Oscar nominations. One of the eligibility requirements for Oscar nominations is that the nominated movies have to be released in theaters. And one of the biggest obstacles is that Black women are rarely hired to direct movies that are released in theaters.

Black News & Views has compiled a list of five Black women directors whose movies have theatrical releases in 2024. They have broken through discrimination barriers when it comes to which directors are hired for movies released in theaters. 

Some of the women on this list have several feature film credits, while others have their first feature film releasing this year. All of these talented women are examples of Black excellence, perseverance despite systemic biases against them, and filmmaking that deserves to be seen and supported by people looking for quality movies.

Laura Chinn

2024 movie: “Suncoast” 

Laura Chinn, director of "Suncoast," an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Photo credit: Sundance Institute
Laura Chinn, director of “Suncoast,” an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Photo credit: Sundance Institute

Searchlight Pictures released Chinn’s semi-autobiographical drama (about a biracial teenage girl whose brother is in a medical hospice) on Feb. 2. The movie premiered on Hulu on Feb. 9. 

Interesting facts: “Suncoast,” written and directed by Chinn, is her feature-film directorial debut. It’s partially based on real events from 2005, when Chinn was a teen, and her 22-year-old brother, who had cancer, was moved to the same medical care facility as Terry Schiavo, a disabled woman who was at the center of controversy over life-support issues. In “Suncoast,” teen protagonist Doris (played by Nico Parker) and her mother, Kristine (played by Laura Linney) must navigate these complexities while Doris forms an unlikely friendship with an eccentric medical activist named Paul Warren (played by Woody Harrelson). 

Chinn (whose father is Black and whose mother is white) was born in La Crescenta-Montrose, California. After her parents’ divorce, she split her time being raised in Clearwater, Florida, and Burbank, California. Before Chinn became a movie director, she was the creator, showrunner, and star of Pop TV’s 2019 comedy series “Florida Girls.” As an actress, she has had guest-starring roles in the ABC series “Grey’s Anatomy,” “General Hospital,” and “Happy Endings.” Chinn has also written for TV comedy series such as Fox’s “Grandfathered,” Adult Swim’s “Brad Neely’s Harg Nallin’ Sclopio Peepio,” and Fox’s “The Mick.” “Suncoast” premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival and has gotten mostly positive reviews.

Quote to remember: In the production notes for “Suncoast,” Chinn commented: “Although, the detail of my brother being at hospice with Terri Schiavo is something I share with Doris, much of the details of her story were invented and it took me a long time to get it right, so I could get across all the emotions I was trying to recreate from my own experience of being a teenager dealing with loss.”

Lagueria Davis

2024 movie: “Black Barbie: A Documentary” 

Lagueria Davis is a Black woman director to watch. Photo credit: Lagueria Davis
Lagueria Davis is a Black woman director to watch. Photo credit: Lagueria Davis

This documentary takes a comprehensive look at the history and cultural impact of Black Barbie dolls. Netflix will release “Black Barbie: A Documentary” on a date to be announced.

Interesting facts: Davis was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor of fine arts degree in media art. She worked her way up in the industry by doing various jobs as a production assistant and production coordinator, including working for filmmaker Terrence Malick and the Showtime drama series “The L Word: Generation Q.” Prior to helming “Black Barbie: A Documentary,” Davis directed several short films, the 2010 domestic violence drama “1 in 3,” and episodes of the independent comedy series “The Exchange.”

Davis is one of the producers of “Black Barbie: A Documentary,” which took 12 years to make and features interviews with a wide variety of people, including Black Barbie designers Kitty Black Perkins and Stacey McBride-Irby. One of the interviewees is Davis’ aunt Beulah Mae Mitchell, who was one of the first Black employees for Mattel, the company that makes Barbie dolls. Davis says in the documentary that she was inspired to make the film after seeing all of her aunt’s mementos and archives from Mattel. After its world premiere at the 2023 SXSW Film and TV Festival, “Black Barbie: A Documentary” made the rounds at several other film festivals, and received rave reviews from critics and audiences. Shonda Rhimes took notice, signed on as an executive producer through her Shondaland production company, and brought “Black Barbie: A Documentary” to Netflix.

Quote to remember: Davis described the essence of “Black Barbie: A Documentary” in a 2023 interview with Oklahoma City’s KWTV-DT/News 9: “It’s about representation, self-determination, intergenerational conversations, and progress through the prism of Black dolls and Black Barbie.”

Zoë Kravitz

2024 movie: “Blink Twice” 

Zoe Kravitz. Photo credit: Eamonn M. McCormack, Getty Images
Zoe Kravitz. Photo credit: Eamonn M. McCormack, Getty Images

In this horror thriller (formerly titled “Pussy Island”), a tech billionaire named Slater King (played Channing Tatum) invites an unsuspecting cocktail waitress named Frida (played by Naomi Ackie) and some of her friends to his private island, where strange and emotionally toxic things start to happen. Amazon MGM Studios will release “Blink Twice” on Aug. 23.

Interesting facts: Kravitz makes her feature-film directorial debut with “Blink Twice,” which she co-wrote E.T. Feigenbaum. She is also one of the producers of “Blink Twice.” Kravitz is best known as an actress, with co-starring roles in Warner Bros. Pictures’ 2022 superhero blockbuster “The Batman” and HBO’s Emmy-winning drama series “Big Little Lies.” Tatum and Kravitz became a couple after making “Blink Twice.” She rewrote the “Blink Twice” screenplay to include developments in the #MeToo movement.

Zoë Kravitz was born in Los Angeles and raised in Los Angeles and New York City. She is also known for being the daughter of Grammy-winning musician Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet. Zoë Kravitz didn’t go to college to learn filmmaking, but she has worked with some of the top filmmakers in the industry, including Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh (who directed her in 2022’s “Kimi”), Matt Reeves (“The Batman”), George Miller (2015’s “Mad Max: Fury Road), and David Yates (2016’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and 2018’s “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”).

Quote to remember: In a 2021 interview with Deadline, Kravitz talked about the inspiration for “Blink Twice” when the movie had the “Pussy Island” title: “I started writing this story in 2017. As a woman in general, and a woman in this industry, I’ve experienced some pretty wild behavior from the opposite sex. … People are evolving and changing but there is still a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths from past behavior. It’s a nod to that, but it’s also playful, and a really playful film in a lot of ways.”

Tina Mabry

2024 movie: “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat” 

Tina Mabry is a Black woman director to watch. Photo credit: Ashly Covington
Tina Mabry is a Black woman director to watch. Photo credit: Ashly Covington

Based on Edward Kelsey Moore’s 2013 novel of the same name, this drama follows the ups and downs of three best friends (played by Uzo Aduba, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, and Sanaa Lathan), who are nicknamed the Supremes. Searchlight Pictures will release “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat” on a date to be announced.

Interesting facts: Mabry was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and is now based in Los Angeles. She has a bachelor of arts degree in political science and psychology from the University of Mississippi. Mabry earned a master of fine arts degree in cinema and television from the University of Southern California. She is also a writer and producer.

Mabry made her feature-film directorial debut with the critically acclaimed 2009 drama “Mississippi Damned,” which she also wrote. She has since worked mostly as a director in television, helming episodes of OWN’s “Queen Sugar,” Netflix’s “Dear White People,” FX’s “Pose,” and ABC’s “Women of the Movement.” Mabry and Gina Prince-Bythewood co-wrote the adapted screenplay for “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat.”

Quote to remember: Mabry commented about being a Black female director in a 2022 interview with OWN: “Stepping on a set as a Black woman, and commanding a crew of 100 people or more, you never know whose eyes are upon you, and whose career and life that you’re impacting in a much bigger way, just by the art that you create, just by you being there. Holding that position, holding that space makes it a possibility for someone else to come in and do the same thing later on.”

Angela Patton

2024 movie: “Daughters” 

Angela Patton, director of "Daughters," an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Photo credit: Sundance Institute
Angela Patton, director of “Daughters,” an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Photo credit: Sundance Institute

This documentary (which Patton co-directed with Natalie Rae) chronicles visits that four daughters have with their imprisoned fathers in Washington, D.C., as they prepare for a father-daughter dance. Netflix will release “Daughters” on a date to be announced.

Interesting facts: “Daughters” is the feature-film directorial debut of Patton, who is a native of Virginia. Her career path has mostly been in activism and as the leader of nonprofit groups. Patton earned a business administration degree from ECPI University, followed by a certification in nonprofit management from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is the founder of Camp Diva and the CEO of Girls for a Change, which are both aimed at empowering underprivileged girls, especially girls of color.

“Daughters” is inspired by Camp Diva’s father-daughter dance for imprisoned fathers and their daughters. Launched in 2007, the dance gained prominent international attention after Patton did a TED Talk about it in 2013. After “Daughters” had its world premiere at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, it won two prizes voted for by the public: U.S. Documentary Audience Award and Festival Favorite Award. Kerry Washington and Patton are among the executive producers of “Daughters,” which became one of the best-reviewed movies premiering at Sundance this year.

Quote to remember: In a Los Angeles Times interview at the Sundance Film Festival in January, Patton said of the father-daughter dance: “It actually is an idea that resonated from young girls, which is exactly what we wanted to show in the film—not only the vulnerability of the girls but really amplifying their voices and really elevating their idea to connect with their own fathers, on their own terms, however they wanted.”

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