Color for your quarantine
Consuming TV and film during the quarantine isn’t just entertainment and self-care. For many people who make their living in the entertainment industry, your views are helping to keep their lights on. Whether it’s in the form of residual payments or fuel for future opportunities for up-and-coming creators, your views matter, especially for Black indie filmmakers. With festival season on hold, brilliant Black indie films aren’t getting the exposure they normally would have screening at fest like SXSW, Cannes, and others. However, some films are making their way straight to streaming services, which is fantastic news for captive audiences. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a festival pass, you can stream them for less than the price of a that Chipotle burrito the delivery man just threw at you from his moving car.
So in between episodes of Gilmore Girls, Friends, or whatever white shows you watch, consider clicking over to some of the incredible new Black indie content the Internet has to offer. Whether you’re looking to laugh, cry, be inspired, or escape into the future, these emerging Black artists have something to fill your existential void (or at least distract you from it).
Olympia (Amazon Prime)
Written by and starring Chicago-based multi-hyphenate artist, McKenzie Chinn, Olympia follows the story of a young Black artist at a crossroads in her life. With her career stalling in place and her mother in the hospital, she has to decide whether to embrace change or get left behind by her peers and her partner as they embark on new journeys. Olympia is a charming, self-reflective story to which almost any Millennial can relate, beautifully told by homegrown Chicago artists. The film premiered in 2018 at the LA Film Festival and Chinn has since been selected for the See It, Be It Fellowship offered by Geena Davis’ Bentonville Film Festival.
Little Woods (Hulu)
Before earning herself the coveted spot directing Jordan Peele’s highly anticipated Candyman, writer-director Nia DaCosta made waves in the indie film scene with Little Woods. Written and directed by DaCosta and starring everyone’s celebrity crush, Tessa Thompson, the film premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in 2018 to rave reviews. The story follows a young woman named Ollie (Thompson), a former drug dealer who comes to the aid of her estranged sister after their mother dies. Ollie must decide whether to return to selling drugs and risk being sent back to prison in order to take care of her sister. This Western/crime drama set in North Dakota stands out in the crowd of Black films and is perfect for those looking for a change of pace.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Amazon)
One of the most highly anticipated indie releases of 2019, The Last Black Man in San Francisco wowed at film festivals, earning it two major awards at Sundance. Based on the real-life experiences of the story’s co-creators and stars, Jimmie Fails and Joe Talbot, the film follows a young Black man as he and his friend try to reclaim his childhood home. The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a poignant and timely exploration of gentrification, racism, and Black masculinity that is both heartbreaking and hopeful.
A gritty narrative depicting one young Black woman’s foray into the field of internet fetish camming, Jezebel dominated at on the festival circuit in 2019, premiering at SXSW and earning writer-director Numa Perrier Best Director and Best Feature Film at the American Black Film Festival. Far from stereotypical characterizations of Black women sex workers, the film breathes fresh, melanated air into the coming-of-age genre, exploring Black femininity, poverty, loss, sexuality, and power.
Written and directed by Insecure showrunner Prentice Penny, Uncorked is a refreshing dramedy about a young Black man who decides to break away from his father’s expectations to take on the family restaurant in order to pursue his dream of coming a master sommelier. This genuine and hilarious story is a peek into the mysterious world of wine through the eyes of a Black family, with star-studded performances from Courtney Vance, Niecy Nash, and fresh-faced lead actor Mamoudou Athie.
Brown Girl Begins (Hulu)
Set in post-apocalyptic Toronto, this afro-futuristic sci-fi film is the prequel story to the 1998 novel Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson. The film’s director, Sharon Lewis, deeply connected with Hopkinson’s book, particularly the story’s roots in Caribbean-Canadian culture. She developed the script for 18 years before finally going into production with the help of crowdfunding. “Brown Girl Begins” premiered at Urbanworld Film Festival in 2017 and received two Canadian Screen awards. This film is a fantastic choice for fans of Black Panther and all things blerdy.
Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men (Hulu)
School may be out of session, but that’s never an excuse to stop a Black history lesson. Directed by Sacha Jenkins, the critically-acclaimed four-part documentary is an intimate look into the genesis and career of iconic hip hop group, the Wu-Tang Clan. It made its premiere at Sundance in 2019 and earned a Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing in a Non-Fiction Program. Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men is a binge-able docuseries that will keep hip hop heads of all ages engaged and engulfed.