5 Films about Black Women

by Samiira Garane

We consider ourselves to be film fans here at Araweelo Abroad. While we lean more towards art house/ international films/ classics, we always prioritize films about the black diaspora generally and black women specifically. Here’s a brief list of 5 films/docs we love. Turn one of these on the next time you’re lost in the Netflix/Hulu/HBO black hole looking for something to watch!

1)     What Happened Miss Simone? dir. Liz Garbus (2015)

What happened to the most exquisite musician to have ever graced the stage? What Happened Miss Simone? is a heart-breaking tale of one of the most gifted musical artists of our time. On full display are Nina Simone’s turbulent relationship with her family and her attempts at seeking refuge fromboth her stardom and the racism that plagued African Americans during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. What Happened Miss Simone? Is an intimate portrayal of Nina Simone. Garbus masterfully crafts an answer to the question many of Nina Simone’s fans have been asking.

2)    Daughters of the Dust dir. Julie Dash (1991)

The name of this gorgeous and lush independent film by Julie Dash resurfaced when Beyoncé referenced it in the music video for her album Lemonade. The film itself is an expressionistic tale of three generations of Gullah women wo are preparing to make the migration north. The film gained praise for showcasing the Gullah people and how they’ve managed to preserve their African heritage, culture and rituals. It also gives a peek into the lives of these three generations of women and how they deal with troubles within themselves, their own communities and navigating desires that might steer them away from their history.

3)    Pariah dir. Dees Rees (2011)

Pariah is both a coming of age and coming out story. At the center of the film is a Brooklyn teenager named Alike whose attempts at navigating her identity is thwarted by her parent’s rejection and denial of her sexuality. Rees’s film gives us an intimate view of a timid black queer girl in the throes of teenage self-discovery. Adepero Oduyes portrayal of the film’s protagonist makes it all the more heartfelt and compelling.

4)    The Watermelon Woman dir. Chantel Dunye (1996)

Chantel Dunye’s mission to excavate the lives of black women in old Hollywood movies who were often left uncredited goes beyond her search for the actress only know as Watermelon Woman. Dunye’s funny and thoughtful film looks closely at the complicated lives of a queer black women in the 1990s, the 1940s and today.

5)    Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners dir. Shola Lynch (2013)

Free Angela Davis is a riveting documentary about Angela Davis’s time behind bars after her social activism embroiled her in a botched kidnapping/murder attempt. Free Angela Davis and all Political Prisoners illustrates a rare example of when a nation rallied behind a black woman to prove her innocence and set her free.


Samiira Garane is a staff writer at Araweelo Abroad