The fact that the pandemic rained terrible circumstances on films and filmmakers isn’t exactly news to anyone. With no way to engage audiences, how would the industry survive? If cinema is viewed exclusively on television or devices, what’s the point? Obviously, the crème de la crop found ways around the conundrum.
It took only one action plan – the Safe Way Forward – to resume work once again. For the first time, a large public gained access to the repertory film circuit of Los Angeles and New York. Film series saw virtual screenings, film festivals saw Zoom panels, drive-in theatres were popular once again, and many inventive platforms came into existence.
For African-American independent filmmakers, however, things didn't work out so smoothly. And those who rose against the odds to release their brilliant work during the pandemic must be shown due appreciation. The money doesn't roll in for these creators as it does for big-budget hits. They must often be reckless and inventive in their pursuit of bringing their visions to the public. As we're moving forward with a new kind of normal, with the world slowly opening up again, you'll be glad these filmmakers saw their visions through.
Here are three masterpieces by African-American Indie directors you shouldn't miss out on.
1. Desperate LA by Jeanetta Rich
Set to premiere at the Brooklyn Film Festival, Rich, the LA-based self-funded her very first masterpiece (she even cashed in her stimulus check to get the production going). Her film, Desperate LA, is all about combating the negatives of society and self-discovery. With Homegirl (played by Rich) as the lead character, the 15-minute runtime covers some pressing themes, from one-sided friendship to dead careers to confusing love affairs.
2. Residue by Merawi Gerima
As is the case with many first-time feature filmmakers, Gerima used his platform to relay a personal story. Array, the company owned by Ava DuVernay distributed the film. The feature film focuses on a young filmmaker who returns to his town just after graduating from film school, only to find everything has been transformed. Though he remained worried about casting his community into the light, and often felt as though he was exploiting them, the project turned out to be an incredibly rewarding process for him.
3. In Sudden Darkness by Tayler Montague
Tayler Montague’s In Sudden Darkness was very well received, with multiple screenings including the New York Film Festival, AFI Fest, Indie Memphis, etc. It covers the subject of familial intimacy through the Manhattan blackout in 2003. The filmmaker's biggest challenge for the project was bringing darkness to an entire city on a budget. It wasn’t easy but, judging from the praise she received, it’s safe to say she did a great job.