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In honor of Black History Month, here are some extraordinary works by Black filmmakers– including comedies, dramas, documentaries, afrofuturism, and blaxploitation– that you can stream for free on Kanopy using your Livingston Library card.

Note: All descriptions are taken from Kanopy


Daughters of the Dust (1991) – directed by Julie Dash

At the dawn of the 20th century, a multi-generational family in the Gullah community on the Sea Islands off of South Carolina – former West African slaves who adopted many of their ancestors’ Yoruba traditions – struggle to maintain their cultural heritage and folklore while contemplating a migration to the mainland, even further from their roots. The first wide release by a black female filmmaker, Daughters of the Dust was met with wild critical acclaim and rapturous audience response when it initially opened in 1991. Casting a long legacy, the film still resonates today, most recently as a major in influence on Beyonce’s video album Lemonade.


Bamboozled (2000) – directed by Spike Lee

A bitingly satirical look at American television at the turn of the 21st Century, revealing a network and an audience that have been Bamboozled. Frustrated when his ideas for a TV series about real African Americans are rejected, Harvard-educated black writer Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans) angrily creates a show–a modern-day minstrel show–so offensive that no network would dare to air it. But the show is produced and becomes a surprise hit, leaving the writer to face the fury of his assistant Sloan Hopkins (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and the entire black community.


Neptune Frost (2021) – directed by Anisia Uzeyman and Saul Williams

Multi-hyphenate, multidisciplinary artist Saul Williams brings his unique dynamism to this Afrofuturist vision, a sci-fi punk musical that’s a visually wondrous amalgamation of themes, ideas, and songs that Williams has previously explored in his work. The film takes place in the hilltops of Burundi, where a group of escaped coltan miners form an anti-colonialist computer hacker collective. From their camp in an otherworldly e-waste dump, they attempt a takeover of the authoritarian regime exploiting the region’s natural resources – and its people. When an intersex runaway and an escaped coltan miner find each other through cosmic forces, their connection sparks glitches within the greater divine circuitry.


Alice (2022) – directed by Kristyn Ver Linden

Alice (Keke Palmer) yearns for freedom as an enslaved person on a rural Georgia plantation under its brutal and disturbed owner Paul (Jonny Lee Miller). After a violent clash with Paul, she flees through the neighboring woods and stumbles onto the unfamiliar sight of a highway, soon discovering the year is actually 1973. Rescued on the roadside by a disillusioned political activist named Frank (Common), Alice quickly comprehends the lies that have kept her in bondage and the promise of Black liberation. Inspired by true events, Alice is a modern empowerment story tracing Alice’s journey through the post-Civil Rights Era American South.


Alma’s Rainbow (1994) – directed by Ayoka Chenzira

A coming-of-age comedy-drama about three Black women living in Brooklyn. Ayoka Chenzira’s feature film explores the life of teenager Rainbow Gold (Victoria Gabrielle Platt) who is entering womanhood and navigating conversations and experiences around standards of beauty, self-image, and the rights Black women have over their bodies. Alma’s Rainbow highlights a multi-layered Black women’s world where the characters live, love, and wrestle with what it means to exert and exercise their agency.


Nationtime (1972) – directed by William Greaves

Best known for his avant-garde meta-documentary Symbiopsychotaxiplasm, William Greaves (1926–2014) was also the director of over 100 documentary films, the majority focused on African American history, politics, and culture. Nationtime is a report on the National Black Political Convention held in Gary, Indiana, in 1972, a historic event that gathered black voices from across the political spectrum, among them Jesse Jackson, Dick Gregory, Coretta Scott King, Dr. Betty Shabazz, Richard Hatcher, Amiri Baraka, Charles Diggs, Isaac Hayes, Richard Roundtree and H. Carl McCall. Narrated by Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte, the film was considered too militant for television broadcast at the time and has since circulated only in an edited 58-minute version. This new 4K restoration from IndieCollect, with funding from Jane Fonda and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, returns the film to its original 80-minute length and visual quality.


Dolemite (1975) – directed by D’Urville Martin

Rudy Ray Moore stars in this legendary classic and pillar of the ‘blaxploitation’ genre. Sent to prison on a frame-up by some crooked cops and his arch rival, the notorious Willy Green, Dolemite is offered an early release if he can bring down Green and the politicians on his payroll who are terrorizing the city. Dolemite, Queen Bee and their beautiful All-Girl Army of Kung-Fu Killers take on the mob in this cult film favorite described by the New York Times as The Citizen Kane of kung-fu pimpin’ movies.”


Personal Problems (1980) – directed by Bill Gunn

This entirely African American-conceived and produced ensemble drama is the result of a collaboration of a pair of pioneering Black artists: writer Ishmael Reed and filmmaker Bill Gunn, who wrote and directed the underground classic Ganja & Hess and wrote the screenplay for Hal Ashby’s The Landlord. Originally intended to air on public television in 1980, it went unseen for many years; the original tapes have been carefully restored and the film is now available in its full-length version.

killer of sheep (1977)

Killer of Sheep (1978) – directed by Charles Burnett

A longstanding director of ingenuity, heart and meticulous detail, Charles Burnett has earned his reputation as “one of America’s very best filmmakers” from The Chicago Tribune. Focusing on everyday life in Black communities rarely featured in American cinema, Burnett’s films combine lyrical storytelling with a starkly neorealist, documentary-style approach most famously seen in Killer of Sheep, the chronicle of a slaughterhouse employee’s daily struggles and the emotional baggage he carries home. Burnett once said of the film, “[Stan’s] real problems lie within the family, trying to make that work and be a human being. You don’t necessarily win battles; you survive.”


Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun (2008) – directed by Sam Pollard

Zora Neale Hurston, path-breaking novelist, pioneering anthropologist and one of the first black women to enter the American literary canon (Their Eyes Were Watching God), established the African American vernacular as one of the most vital, inventive voices in American literature. This definitive film biography, eighteen years in the making, portrays Zora in all her complexity: gifted, flamboyant, and controversial but always fiercely original.


Moonlight (2016) – directed by Barry Jenkins

Oscar-winner for Best Picture, Moonlight is a moving and transcendent look at three defining chapters in the life of Chiron, a young man growing up in Miami. His epic journey to adulthood, as a shy outsider dealing with difficult circumstances, is guided by support, empathy and love from the most unexpected places.

To browse Kanopy’s entire “Black History Month” collection, click here.

Joe, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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