Kathleen Collins, Losing Ground (1982)
In life, Kathleen Collins’s best-known achievement was the 1982 film, Losing Ground, one of the first feature-length movies by an African-American female filmmaker. The story follows the complex marriage of Sara (Seret Scott), a seemingly frigid professor, and Victor (filmmaker Bill Gunn), an irreverent painter. Victor finds ecstasy through his art and Sara finds hers through abstractions, such as scholarship and conceptual thinking. During a summer vacation, their marital tension comes to a head when Victor falls for one of his muses and Sara for an out-of-work actor with whom she co-stars in an independent, student-led film. The story is ordinary yet luxuriant, as if time were of no consequence. There are ample shots of black and latinx people dancing, black people dining, black people conversing, black people being.
– Morgan Jenkins
Julie Dash, Daughters of the Dust (1991)
Made using a budget of only $800,000, Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust (1991) – the first feature length film to be made by a Black American woman and distributed widely in the US – is free to watch on Criterion Channel. It's a lush, mesmerising, almost painterly film, which features cinematography by the film's producer Arthur Jafa.
– Andrew Durbin
RaMell Ross, Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2018) [Free to watch in the US]
US photographer RaMell Ross’s debut film Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2018), makes of its titular Alabama county a kaleidoscopic subject. This is the same town Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hid following an assassination attempt by the KKK, only two weeks before he was killed on 4 April 1968. It is a town so embedded in the racist history of the southern United States, with its legacy of chattel slavery, indentured servitude and Jim Crow, that it would seem nearly impossible to fully bring to life the vast sweep of both the present and the past in moving images.
– Jacolby Satterwhite
Milton Bryan, The People’s Account (1985)
The People’s Account (1985) is a documentary rich with oral histories and first-person accounts of the Broadwater Farm uprising, which took place on a housing estate in Tottenham, north London. Still rarely seen, the film opens with a narrator grounding you with a simple but impactful truth: ‘Three major uprisings rocked London and Birmingham in late 1985. Each was sparked by an act of police lawlessness against a Black woman.’
– Rianna Jade Parker