Through Molly Grogan, Third year, English
As Black History Month 2022 draws to a close (although its messages should be celebrated throughout the year), we’ve shortlisted just a few of the many talented Black creatives working in film and television. Some of her stories are radical, others funny, the most challenging, but always focus on black voices and experiences. Surely these inspiring women are making much-needed changes happen.
Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You (2020)
I once saw Michaela Coel on the Elizabeth subway line and the seconds she blew past me (in full and ethereal glamour) were may be the best in my life. It’s because of her BBC show i can destroy you (2020) has completely changed my life and my world view.
Written by and starring Coel, it follows author Arabella as she struggles to narrate the night of her sexual assault, only to find she was peppered. A dark and poignant comedy, Coel’s lovable yet complicated characters and brutally honest dialogue put a face to the victims we hear about every day – the sisters, friends, friends of friends and girls in class – we still don’t protect be able.
The series fantastically culminates in revenge and justice, envisioning the “what if” scenarios of confronting the perpetrator, an outcome that too many cases fail to achieve. Not only is it a stunning portrait of flawed femininity, it also focuses on the stories of black voices portraying Paapa Essiedu and Weruche Opia as Arabella’s best friends, both also suffering from their own personal turmoil.
After being approached by Netflix to do the show, Coel turned her down as she insisted on having complete creative freedom – after being mistreated during production chewing gum (2015-2017). This reflects the agency Arabella seeks in the show to express herself, even if it means abandoning the traditional, meek “victim” image and instead embracing a dark, unforgiving, and unflinching side of herself.
Coel told GQ that when she goes into the Italian ocean in the penultimate episode, “this is the moment where she gathers that kind of darkness that she needs to overcome her trauma,” and it’s certainly the unfiltered one Art. It’s really exciting. See a black female narrative that rejects viewer audiences’ usual demand for “savory” stories that somehow also center them so as not to touch on white fragility.The show’s success is an example of more than a kind of bravery.
Filmography of Ava Duvernay
director of Selma (2014), A wrinkle in time (2018), when they see us (2019) and 13. (2016), Duvernay shows no sign that she will stop releasing groundbreaking, conversation-starting films and TV shows.
Known for her intrepid documentaries and biopics centered around the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Central Park 5, she strives for change and champions the use of film as protest.
She has been nominated for numerous awards and won the Emmy for her 2019 miniseries when they see us, Duvernay is determined to shine a spotlight on cases of historical injustice and bring them into the white-dominated cultural zeitgeist. Her incredibly influential filmmaking has paved the way for other black women directors and creatives in the industry.
Shonda Rhimes and ‘Shondaland’
If you’ve seen any incredibly successful or overly-promoted shows lately, the brains behind it all are probably Shonda Rhimes. Named after time Named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2007, 2013 and 2021, her successful career in the industry continues to thrive.
Known for Grey’s anatomy (2005-)scandal (2012-8)How to get away with murder (2014-20)The catch (2016), invent Anna (2020) and a side job as a producer Bridgeton (2020-) her media empire, aptly named ‘Shondaland’, frequently receives recognition from award academies and has received an incredibly positive reception from audiences.
Their monopoly on the American television industry is pretty awesome. Especially since their shows mostly focus on black female characters, who absolutely dominate in male-dominated areas.
Take How to get away with murder, where we see the incredible Viola Davis teach a group of aspiring law students, you guessed it, how to get away with murder after they become involved in a very real one. or scandalwhere Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), a former media adviser to the President, sets up her own management company and takes on male adversaries and dark forces trying to take her company down.
Rhimes also joined the national board of Planned Parenthood in 2017 and is co-chair of When We All Vote, extending her good deeds for the film universe to the real world. The women of Rhimes are ambitious, they’re smart, they’re ruthless, they’re mean, they’re everything we’re taught not to be – in short, they’re strong characters. And it takes one to know one.
The women behind Ma Rainey’s black butt (2020)
Inspired by the career of influential blues singer Ma Rainey and based on the 1982 track of the same name, Ma Rainey’s black butt Stars Viola Davis and the late, great Chadwick Boseman in a dramatization of an explosive recording studio session in 1920’s Chicago.
It is, however, the achievements of Black women Behind the screen that makes its prize wins so significant. Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson won the Oscar at the 93rd Annual Awards, making history as the first black women to win the Best Hair and Makeup category. In her acceptance speech, Neal said:
“I want to thank all of our ancestors who put in the work, were rejected but never gave up. I also stand here as Jamika Wilson, breaking through this glass ceiling with so much anticipation for the future. I can imagine black trans women standing up here and Asian sisters, our Latino sisters and indigenous women. I know that one day it will be neither unusual nor groundbreaking. It will just be normal.”
In a ceremony usually dominated by white male (and sometimes female) directors, producers and writers, the win was a testament to the innovative work of black female creatives who are actively shaping the future of cinema and the homogeneity of pricing systems in Ask a Question.
Featured Image: Photo by Netflix, courtesy of IMDB
What is your favorite example of black female excellence in the world of film and television?