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Queer Filmmakers of Color : Narrative Filmmakers

We hope by providing students, scholars, film lovers, and the general public with this libguide, the names and works done by these amazing individuals will be more widely appreciated.

Introduction

Apichatphong Weerasethakul from his website, KicktheMachine.com

The 2010s witnessed a cultural attention to diversity in film, both in the actors in front of the camera, as well as the directors behind it. While diverse representation has been limited in Western media since its inception, valuable efforts have been made by individuals and communities to broaden the scope of storytelling by this influential medium. Information about this history is worth gathering in one location for students, academics, film lovers, and the public to have as a resource. This drives the motivation for a LibGuide dedicated to queer filmmakers of color.

Narrative Filmmakers List

Angela Robinson

D.E.B.S (2003)

Angela Robinson is an American film and television director, screenwriter and producer. Robinson attended Brown University, where she majored in theatre and later received an MFA from New York University. Robinson frequently deals with gay and lesbian topics in her films. She directed the short film D.E.B.S. (2003), produced by POWER UP, and directed a feature-length adaptation of D.E.B.S. (2004). Robinson also directed 2005 remake Herbie: Fully Loaded. She also wrote episodes for HBO shows like True Blood and Hung. 

Aurora Guerrero

Mosquita Y Mari (2012)

Aurora Guerrero is a queer-identified, Chicana writer-director from California.  Guerrero studied both Psychology and Chicano studies at University of California, Berkeley completing a Bachelor of Arts. She later moved to Los Angeles to study directing at California Institute of the Arts in Santa Clarita, California earning a Master of Fine Arts. In 2012, Guerrero made her feature film debut at the Sundance Film Festival with Mosquita y Mari, becoming the first Chicana filmmaker to debut a feature-length film who was also previously a Sundance Institute and Ford Foundation Fellow. Mosquita y Mari has since traveled over 100 film festivals including San Francisco International, Melbourne, Guadalajara, Sao Paulo, and has garnered multiple awards including Best First Feature at Outfest and Best U.S. Latino FIlm at NY's Cinema Tropical while picking up Spirit Award and GLAAD nominations for Best First Feature Under 500k and the Piaget's Producer's Award. In 2017, Guerrero directed the Ava DuVernay produced Queen Sugar episode "What Do I Care for Morning" which aired as episode three in season two.  

Dee Rees

Pariah (2011)

An American screenwriter and director, born in Nashville Tenenessee. She is known for her feature films Pariah (2011), Bessie (2015), and Mudbound (2017). The latter was adapted from the 2008 novel by the same name by Hillary Jordan and earned Rees an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted ScreenplayShe attended local schools and college at Florida A&M University. After business school, Rees held an array of jobs, including working as a salesperson for panty-liners, a vendor for wart-remover and bunion pads, and also worked in marketing and brand management. While working for Dr. Scholl's, Rees worked on set for a commercial and she realized she enjoyed the creation of film content. This led her to pursue film school. For graduate school, she attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. While at New York University for film, Spike Lee was her professor and mentor.

H.P. Mendoza

Fruit Fly (2009)

H.P. Mendoza is an American film directorscreenwriter, actor, producer and musician. He is best known for his micro-budget work as screenwriter, composer and lyricist on Colma: The Musical (2007), as well as his follow-up musical and directorial debut, Fruit Fly (2010). Mendoza's musical films have been dubbed "mumblechoral" by Steve Seid of Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film ArchiveIn 2012, Mendoza was inducted into Essential SF by San Francisco Film Society alongside Terry Zwigoff and Judy Stone (journalist). Mendoza also wrote and directed the 2014 film I Am a Ghost

Justin Simien

Dear White People (2014)

Justin Simien is an American filmmaker from Houston, Texas. He studied film at Chapman University. After college Simien worked several jobs in Los Angeles including social media manager for Sony Television, publicity assistant at Focus Features, and publicity coordinator at Paramount Pictures. He secured funding for Dear White People (2014) through an Indiegogo campaign. He won U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Dear White People was then made into a television series distributed through streaming platform Neftlix.

Lee Daniels

Precious (2009)

Lee Daniels is an American film and television writer, director, and producer. His breakthrough film Precious (2009) received six Oscar nominations, including Best Director; it won two of the awards. Born in Philadelphia, he briefly attended Lindenwood University in Missouri. He figured school was not for him and moved to Hollywood, working as a receptionist in a nursing agency. He felt like he could do a better job on his own and then started his own nursing agency and eventually sold the company. He began working as casting director using the skills he acquired from "casting" nurses. He also went on to manage the early careers of actors like Wes Bentley during the time American Beauty came out. He went on to produce under Lee Daniels Entertainment, the first production being Monster's Ball (2001). Precious grossed $63 million worldwide against a budget of $10 million. He also created Empire, a television series starring Taraji P. Henson and follows a family's record label. 

Maryam Keshavarz

 

Circumstance (2011)

Maryam Keshavarz is an Iranian-American filmmaker best known for her 2011 film Circumstance, which won the Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival. Keshavarz received her BA in Comparative Literature from Northwestern University, an MA in Near Eastern Studies from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and an MFA in Film Direction from New York University, Tisch School of the Arts. After experimenting with genres such as surrealism, documentary, and visual essay, her 2011 film Circumstance led to critical acclaim. Maryam is an alumna of the Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Lab, Tribeca Film Institute's All Access Program. She is the recipient of dozens of grants and fellowships including the French Government's Fonds Sud, Rotterdam Film Festivals' Hubert Bals Award, Women in Film's Grant, Adrienne Shelly Award, numerous Sundance fellowships, and multiple San Francisco Film Society grants. She has been a visiting artist at the University of Pennsylvania and guest lecturer at dozens of prestigious international universities. She is an active member of Film Independent serving as a mentor for their Project Involve Initiative and speaking on numerous filmmaking panels.

Nisha Ganatra

Late Night (2019)

Nisha Ganatra is a Canadian-American film director, screenwriter, producer, and actress of Indian descent. She studied at The University of California, Los Angeles--but was not studying film. She would sneak into screenwriting classes which led to her creating short films. At 21, she moved to New York City to pursue a film degree at New York University. Upon graduation, Ganatra went on to direct several episodes of MTV's The Real World in 2001. She received a Golden Globe award in 2015 for her work as a director and producer in the television series Transparent. Most recently directed the film Late Night, starring Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling, which premiered at Sundance, sold to Amazon in a record-breaking deal, and garnered the highest pre-screening numbers of 2019.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2009)

Apichatpong grew up in Khon Kaen in north-eastern Thailand. He began making film and video shorts in 1994, and completed his first feature in 2000. He has also mounted exhibitions and installations in many countries since 1998. Often non-linear, with a strong sense of dislocation, his works deal with memory, subtly addressed personal politics and social issues. In 2005 he was presented with one of Thailand’s most prestigious awards, Silpatorn, by the Thai Ministry of Culture. In 2008, the French Minister of Culture bestowed on him the medal of Chevalier de l'ordre des arts et des letter (Knight of the Order of Arts and Literature). In 2011, he was given another honor for the same field with an Officer Medal, and later in 2017, Commandeurs medal. His film, Syndromes and a Century, completed in late 2006, was the first Thai film to be selected for competition at the Venice Film Festival. Apichatpong is also one of 20 international artists and filmmakers commissioned to create a short film for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. His 2009 project, Primitive, consists of a large-scale video installation, an artist’s book, and a feature film, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. The film has won a Palme d’Or prize at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival in 2010, making it the first Southeast Asian film (and the 7th from Asia) to win the most prestigious award in the film world. His current project includes Fever Room, a projection performance about displaced consciousness.

Yen Tan

1985 (2018)

Yen Tan is an  independent film producer and director who emigrated from Malaysia at the age of 19 and is based in Dallas, Texas. He is known for award winning films Happy Birthday (2002) and Deadroom (2005). He also directed the gay-themed Ciao (2008) that he had co-written with the film's lead actor Alessandro Calza. His screenwriting lab semi-finalist screenplay Pit Stop was selected by the Outfest Screenwriting Lab. The film also screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. He was also a finalist for the prestigious Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise. It was a John Cassavetes Award nominee at the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards. The film has acquired distribution worldwide.  Yen's latest film 1985, premiered at SXSW in 2018.

Scope Note

This is not a comprehensive list of filmmakers. We hope to bring diversity and inclusion to the conversation of the media. This LibGuide acts as a starting place to exploring the in-depth history, industry, and community of filmmaking.