In an industry that has traditionally confined characters of colour to sidekicks and stereotypes, post-colonial theory can be useful to unpack some of the racial tropes that have long been taken for granted in cinema. The medium of film offers an accessible way in which to address the issues and on-going effects of colonialism, functioning as an educative tool whilst entertaining. From portraying historical events to documenting important and often uncomfortable truths, Something Curated highlights six contemporary filmmakers pushing forward the representation of marginalised groups on screen.
Reinaldo Marcus Green
Reinaldo Marcus Green is an American director, producer and writer, best known for his 2018 film, Monsters and Men, which won the Special Jury Award for Outstanding First Feature at the Sundance Film Festival. Whether set in poverty-stricken Cape Town or Red Hook’s police-surveyed streets, Marcus Green’s early films about teenage youths experiencing accelerated trips into adulthood are at once specific and universal. In June 2019, it was announced he would be directing a biopic entitled King Richard, about tennis coach and father of American tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, Richard Williams.
Cecile Emeke is a British filmmaker, writer and artist born in London of Jamaican descent. In 2014 Emeke directed the short film Ackee & Saltfish. The film follows two friends around East London as they are trying to find the traditional Jamaican salted cod dish. The same year, Emeke also published the first episode of the web series Strolling, which she is now most widely known for. In the series, Emeke walks around the streets of London with Black men and women to talk about a diverse range of issues such as sexuality, gender, identity, mental health, popular culture, and gentrification. She has presented her work at cultural and academic institutions including Cambridge University, SOAS, Southbank Centre, and The Brooklyn Museum.
Māori filmmaker Heperi Mita began his career in media in 2007, working in online journalism for the Pulitzer Prize winning Las Vegas Sun newspaper. He returned to his home country of New Zealand, or Aotearoa, the name originally used by the Māori people, in 2011, following the death of his mother, the indigenous filmmaking pioneer Merata Mita. It was here that he began his career as an archivist with Ngā Taonga sound and vision, the nation’s film archive. The combination of these experiences culminated in his directorial debut with the documentary Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen, which screened at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals in 2019.
Deidra Peaches & Jake Hoyungowa
Deidra Peaches and the late Jake Hoyungowa, behind Paper Rocket Productions, challenge the anti-Indigenous film tradition by providing complex, humanising, and contemporary modes of representation and socio-political consciousness that rearrange the ways in which Indigeneity may be understood. The duo’s films interrupt and transform pervasive colonial logic by refusing nostalgic portrayals of the past, which include a sense of purity, authenticity, and the accompanying stereotypes that perpetuate these. Providing multifaceted, present-day, and culturally relevant narratives, Paper Rocket Productions is part of the growing movement of Native Americans that actively partake in the creative control of images that concern them, using film as a medium of political and cultural expression.
American filmmaker Ava DuVernay has established herself as a dominant voice in cinema in recent years, having won the directing award at 2012’s Sundance Film Festival for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere, becoming the first Black woman to win the award. Shortly after, for her work on Selma, DuVernay became the first Black woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director, and also the first Black female director to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. In 2017, she was once again nominated for her film 13th. Last year, she created, co-wrote, produced and directed the Netflix drama limited series When They See Us, based on the 1989 Central Park jogger case, which has earned critical acclaim.
Feature image: Still from Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen, Heperi Mita, 2018 (via Heperi Mita)