Sundance Film Festival is the most prestigious film festival in the world and showcases some of the best independent films that we will see all year! The Oscars may have some work to do in terms of diversifying; however, that is certainly not the case at Sundance this year. Check out the films below (they all have a black protagonist), and if you can’t make it to the festival then be sure to track these amazing films so that you can check them out when they visit a city near you at some point this year!
Birth of a Nation: In re-telling the story of Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion, director-star Nate Parker has cleverly appropriated the title of D.W. Griffith’s racist propaganda epic to offer his take on black empowerment. Two years ago at this time “12 Years a Slave” was rolling through award season. “Birth” returns to that antebellum period, this time telling a different story of slavery, and heroism and resistance.
Southside With You: This film, written and directed by Richard Tanne, chronicles a single day in the summer of 1989 when Barack Obama, future President of the United States, wooed his future First Lady on an epic first date across Chicago’s South Side. Starring Tika Sumpter, Parker Sawyers, Vanessa Bell Calloway.
Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Up Against the Wall: Through rare archival footage and interviews director Spike Lee traces Jackson’s trajectory from child star to “King of Pop” which culminated in the release of his 1979 solo album, “Off The Wall.”
Miles Ahead: Director and co-written by Don Cheadle, Miles Ahead is inspired by events in the late legendary jazz trumpeter/composer Miles Davis’s life, this is a wildly entertaining no holds barred portrait of one of music’s creative geniuses.
O.J.: Made in America: O.J.: A 7-1/2-hour documentary miniseries by ESPN Films that looks at O.J. Simpson’s rise and fall, through the prisms of race and celebrity. The full miniseries will be shown, followed by an extended Q&A.
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise: For Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, directors Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack tell the remarkable story of Maya Angelou—iconic writer, poet, actress, and activist—whose life has intersected some of the most profound moments in recent American history.
Morris From America: Thirteen-year-old Morris (Markees Christmas), a hip-hop loving American, moves to Heidelberg, Germany, with his father (Craig Robinson). In this completely foreign land, he falls in love with a local girl, befriends his German tutor-turned-confidant, and attempts to navigate the unique trials and tribulations of adolescence.
United Shades of America: Political comedian W. Kamau Bell explores the racial subcultures of America for this CNN original series premiering at Sundance. In one episode he uses humor to challenge Klansmen looking to rebrand their message.
As You Are: This telling, and retelling, of a relationship between three teenagers traces the course of their friendship through a construction of disparate memories prompted by a police investigation. Starring Amandla Stenberg.
How to Tell You’re a Douchebag: Written and directed by Tahir Jetter, this engaging romantic comedy follows a misogynist who falls head-over-heels in love. Starring Charles Brice, DeWanda Wise, William Jackson Harper, Alexander Mulzac, Jenna Williams, and Tonye Patano.
Mr. Pig: A road movie about an aged farmer (Danny Glover) who smuggles his last prized hog into Mexico and ends up reunited with his estranged daughter (Maya Rudolph).
The Land: Four passionate teenage boys devote their summer to escaping the gritty streets of Cleveland, Ohio, by pursuing a dream life of professional skateboarding. But when they get caught in the dangerous web of the local queenpin, their motley brotherhood is tested, threatening to make this summer their last. Starring Michael K. Williams, Erykah Badu, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Moises Arias, Rafi Gavron, Ezri Walker.
Sleight: A young street magician turns to dealing drugs to help his little sister who has been kidnapped. Starring Jacob Latimore, Dulé Hill.
Kiki: Director Sara Jordenö follows LGBTQ youth of color who have created a safe space in a complex world through the transformative art of voguing. Through an intimate and visually daring lens, these young people demand happiness and political power.
Hard World for Small Things: This drama transports you to a day in the life of a tight-knit community in South Central Los Angeles. Directed by Janicza Bravo; starring Keith Stanfield, Brandon Scott, Idara Victor, Jodie Smith.
The Fit: A haunting coming-to-age story about a tomboyish preteen boxer trying to be assimilated into a tight knit dance team. Starring Royalty Hightower, Alexis Neblett, Da’Sean Minor, Makyla Burnam, Inayah Rodgers.
**Film titles and descriptions provided by Sundance Institute