This week marks the last of Black History Month, before Women’s History Month kicks off in March. So to send off one month and usher in another, check out some of the best films available to stream made by Black women (which is always worth your while at any time of the year).
One of the very best film debuts of 2020 was the effervescent “Forty-Year-Old Version,” written, directed by and starring Radha Blank. An autobiographical film about a playwright dabbling in rap, Blank’s film is a funny, fresh and an incisive take on how Black art, especially made by women, is received by white critics and gatekeepers.
The legendary Oscar-winning actress Regina King made her directorial debut in 2020 with “One Night in Miami,” streaming on Amazon Prime. The film features an epic one-night hang sesh among Sam Cooke, Malcolm X, Cassius Clay and Jim Brown. King and the actors have already been nominated for several awards, catch up before they scoop up more nominations. (And check out King hosting “Saturday Night Live” a couple of weeks ago; she’s excellent.)
Another awards-nominated 2020 directorial debut: Channing Godfrey Peoples’ Texas-set family drama “Miss Juneteenth,” starring a luminous Nicole Beharie in a role that finally allows her to demonstrate the full range of her enormous talent. A soulful slice of life is not to be missed. Watch it on Kanopy or rent it for $2.99 on Amazon or YouTube.
2020 also marked the first year a Black woman helmed a big-budget action film, with
Gina Prince-Bythewood directing the sci-fi comic book adaptation “The Old Guard,” starring Charlize Theron as an ancient warrior leading a special forces team. Exciting new stars Kiki Layne, Luca Marinelli and Marwan Kenzari costar across from Theron and Matthias Schoenaerts in this exciting action flick that boasts a rich lore. Watch in on Netflix.
Director Ava DuVernay has become a household name for her film work, and her distribution imprint Array has brought many independent films from creators of color to a wider audience. Watch her searing documentary “13th,” about the prison-industrial complex and systemic racism in America, on Netflix, or rent her Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic, “Selma,” starring David Oyelowo, for $2.99 on Amazon or YouTube.
Chinonye Chukwu’s exceptional film “Clemency” also grapples with the stark realities of the United States’ prison system, starring Alfre Woodard as a warden overseeing death row executions, facing the reality of an incarcerated man (Aldis Hodge) who desperately wants to live. Watch it on Hulu or rent it for $3.99 on Amazon or YouTube. Nia DaCosta, whose next film, the remake of “Candyman” produced by Jordan Peele, is due later this summer, made her debut with the Tessa Thompson-starring “Little Woods,” on Hulu and Kanopy, or $3.99 digital rental. The film explores the border between Canada and a North Dakota oil boom town, where two sisters struggle to get on their feet.
On Netflix, Dee Rees’ Oscar-nominated 2017 film “Mudbound,” about two Mississippi sharecropping families, white and Black, the racist beliefs that divide them and the world war that demonstrates a different, more egalitarian way of life. On HBO Max, watch Kasi Lemmons’ Oscar-nominated 2019 film “Harriet,” with Cynthia Erivo in the role of the legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman.
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