Sundance 2019 & the modern day Black Film Renaissance

Arguably, the African Diaspora is currently experiencing a modern-day “Black Renaissance” in the film industry.

Black directors, actors, writers, and producers are booming like never before. From Academy Award-winning films like “Moonlight” (Dir. Barry Jenkins) to revolutionary films such as “Black Panther”, (Dir. Ryan Coogler) recently becoming the first super-hero movie nominated for best picture at this year’s Academy awards, the Diaspora is being recognised to the highest degree opening doors for the next generation of black artists globally.

Sundance 2019, held in Park City, Utah, USA showcased new faces and seasoned talent leaving us inspired, completely surprised, and hopeful for what’s to come in cinema this year. Here are a few of the most talked about films that were directed/written by & featured black talent (some of which we’re proud to say include offerings from British Black creatives).

The Boy who Harnessed the Wind

Director: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, Doctor Strange)
Screenwriter: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Cast: Noma Dumezweni, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Joseph Marcell, & Maxwell Simba.

The film tells the story of a boy (Maxwell Simba) in Malawi who’s family undergoes hardships during a famine in their country, leading up to financial loss and hunger. He helps his village by discovering how to build a wind turbine. This film is based on a true story and was picked up by Netflix late 2018.  

Native Son

Director: Rashid Johnson
Screenwriter: Suzan-Lori Parks
Cast: Ashton Sanders Sanaa Lathan, Kiki Layne, David Alan Grier,

Based on the 1940’s novel written by African American author Richard Wright, American author, this film tells the story of “Bigger Thomas”, a young African American who takes a job working for a very influential family in Chicago. “Big” is played by Ashton Sanders who starred as the teen Chiron in Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-winning film Moonlight.
This is Rashid’s first feature film and has been purchased by HBO films.

The Last Tree

Dir: Shola Amoo
Screenwriter: Shola Amoo 
Cast: Nicholas Pinnock, Denise Black, Sam Adewunmi

This coming of age film dives into issues surrounding class, identity, and how environment shapes youth. Femi, who has lived in Lincolnshire all his life is torn from everything he knows to live with his mom in inner London, causing him inner struggles around culture and his future path of adulthood. This is British Nigerian filmmaker Amoo’s second feature after his critically acclaimed debut about gentrification ‘A Moving Image’
Picturehouse has picked up UK rights to the film.


Director: Chinonye Chukwu
Screenwriter: Chinonye Chukwu
Cast: Alfre Woodard, Danielle Brooks, Wendell Pierce, Aldis Hodge, & Richard Schiff.

This drama film goes into the psyche of prison warden Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard) who is forced to confront her emotions after sending men to their deaths time and time again.
Clemency won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance making Chukwu, Nigerian-American filmmaker the first black woman to win this top prize.

These films are just a few of the amazing productions created by black talent around the Diaspora, sparking a new dawn in film. Never before have we seen this many black actors, producers, writers, and directors in diverse, non-stereotypical films that tell our stories from our point of view.
It may be safe to say that this new era in black cinema is not only promising, but historic.

Feature by Tyler Grace


Latest articles

Related articles