Top 20 Filmmakers of Color

by actorsofcolor | created - 29 Aug 2011 | updated - 29 Aug 2011 | Public

These are the top filmmakers of color - who tell stories beyond racial boundaries in the pursuit of artistic excellence.

1. Spike Lee

Director | Do the Right Thing

Spike Lee was born Shelton Jackson Lee on March 20, 1957, in Atlanta, Georgia. At a very young age, he moved from pre-civil rights Georgia, to Brooklyn, New York. Lee came from artistic, education-grounded background; his father was a jazz musician, and his mother, a schoolteacher. He attended ...

2. Tyler Perry

Writer | Diary of a Mad Black Woman

Perry was born and raised in New Orleans, to Willie Maxine (Campbell) and Emmitt Perry, Sr. His mother was a church-goer and took Perry along with her once a week. His father was a carpenter and they had a very strained and abusive relationship, which led Perry to suffer from depression as a ...

3. F. Gary Gray

Director | Set It Off

F. Gary Gray was born on July 17, 1969 in New York City, New York, USA as Felix Gary Gray. He is a director and actor, known for Set It Off (1996), The Italian Job (2003) and The Negotiator (1998).

4. Lee Daniels

Producer | Precious

Lee Daniels gave his parents an early Christmas present when he entered the world on December 24, 1959; unfortunately, the Philadelphia native was to have a difficult relationship with his police officer father who later reacted violently to his son's sexuality. Despite the brutality of his ...

5. John Singleton

Writer | Boyz n the Hood

Son of mortgage broker Danny Singleton and pharmaceutical company sales executive Sheila Ward and raised in separate households by his unmarried parents, John Singleton attended the Film Writing Program at USC after graduating from high school in 1986. While studying there, he won three writing ...

6. Oscar Micheaux

Writer | Within Our Gates

Oscar Micheaux, the first African-American to produce a feature-length film (The Homesteader (1919)) and a sound feature-length film (The Exile (1931)), is not only a major figure in American film for these milestones, but because his oeuvre is a window into the American history and psyche ...

7. Denzel Washington

Actor | Fences

Denzel Hayes Washington, Jr. was born on December 28, 1954 in Mount Vernon, New York. He is the middle of three children of a beautician mother, Lennis, from Georgia, and a Pentecostal minister father, Denzel Washington, Sr., from Virginia. After graduating from high school, Denzel enrolled at ...

8. Sanaa Hamri

Director | Empire

Sanaa Hamri is a renowned film director from Tangier, Morocco. Her feature directorial debut was the romantic comedy Something New for Focus Features in 2006, followed by her second directorial effort, the sequel to the Warner Bros.' hit The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, then onto the Fox ...

9. Tanya Hamilton

Director | Night Catches Us

Tanya Hamilton is known for her work on Night Catches Us (2010), The Chi (2018) and Queen Sugar (2016).

10. Ka'ramuu Kush

Actor | Five Deep Breaths

Ka'ramuu Kush was born in Detroit, Michigan, USA. He is an actor and director, known for Five Deep Breaths (2003), The Number 23 (2007) and Salvation Road (2010).

11. Ava DuVernay

Producer | Queen Sugar

A director, producer, writer, marketer and film distributor, Ava DuVernay made her feature film debut with the documentary This in the Life (2008), a history on hip hop movement that flourished in Los Angeles in the 1990's. This was followed by series of television music documentaries which ...

12. Dee Rees

Director | Mudbound

Writer/Director Dee Rees is an alumna of New York University's graduate film program and a Sundance Screenwriting & Directing Lab Fellow.

In 2018, Dee became the first Black woman nominated for an Oscar in the Best Adapted Screenplay category for her highly-acclaimed film Mudbound (2017). The film, ...

13. Rashaad Ernesto Green

Director | Gun Hill Road

Rashaad Ernesto Green was born on August 19, 1978 in Bronx, New York, USA. He is a director and producer, known for Gun Hill Road (2011), Premature (2008) and Cuts (2009). He was previously married to Maryse Tricia Karunaratne.

14. Nikyatu Jusu

Director | Suicide by Sunlight

Having garnered an MFA from NYU's Tisch Graduate Film school, Sierra Leonean-American Writer/Director Nikyatu Jusu's films have screened at festivals nationally and internationally garnering her NYU's prestigious Spike Lee Fellowship Award, the Princess Grace Narrative film grant and Director's ...

15. Nzingha Stewart

Director | With This Ring

Directed music videos for numerous artists including Erykah Badu, Macy Gray, Joss Stone, Bilal, 50 Cent, Common, Eve, Jay-Z, and Missy Elliott.

16. Malcolm D. Lee

Director | Girls Trip

Malcolm D. Lee was born on January 11, 1970 in the USA. He is a director and producer, known for Girls Trip (2017), Undercover Brother (2002) and The Best Man Holiday (2013).

17. Mira Nair

Director | Salaam Bombay!

Accomplished Film Director/Writer/Producer Mira Nair was born in India and educated at Delhi University and at Harvard. She began her film career as an actor and then turned to directing award-winning documentaries, including So Far From India and India Cabaret. Her debut feature film, Salaam ...

18. Kasi Lemmons

Actress | The Silence of the Lambs

Kasi Lemmons was born on February 24, 1961 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA as Karen Lemmons. She is an actress and director, known for The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Candyman (1992) and Eve's Bayou (1997). She has been married to Vondie Curtis-Hall since 1995. They have two children.

19. Melvin Van Peebles

Actor | The Shining

Melvin Van Peebles was born on August 21, 1932 in Chicago, Illinois, USA. He is an actor and writer, known for The Shining (1997), Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971) and Le conte du ventre plein (2000).

20. Thomas Carter

Director | Coach Carter

Thomas Carter was born on July 17, 1953 in Austin, Texas, USA as Thomas Colbert Carter. He is a director and producer, known for Coach Carter (2005), Equal Justice (1990) and Save the Last Dance (2001).



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