Maudern Movies, a weekly series that curates films for your viewing pleasure.
1986 proved to be a groundbreaking year for films about Black love by Black directors. A newcomer named Spike Lee released his first feature film, She’s Gotta Have It, a revolutionary take on the female perspective of contemporary dating set against the backdrop of Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Independently made and critically received, the movie paved the way for more cinematic gems.
From the coming-of-age Love & Basketball by Gina Prince-Bythewood, to the innovative art that is Barry Jenkins’ Medicine for Melancholy or Rashaad Ernesto Green’s Premature, the past three decades have given us a range of dynamic films that challenge convention and celebrate what modern Black love looks like. Here are six of them.
She’s Gotta Have It, 1986
Directed by: Spike Lee
Starring: Tracy Camilla Johns, Tommy Redmond Hicks, John Canada Terrel
In the mid-80s in Brooklyn, Nola Darling (Johns) is dating not just one but three men, all with different personalities and careers. She maintains and anti-monogamous and care-free sex perspective on love and intimacy throughout the film; although is pushed by her suitors to choose. Ultimately, even as she tries both a relationship with one lover, she rejects the confinement of monogamy. The film was shot over 12 days in Brooklyn and is one of Spike Lee’s earliest feature films.
Where to watch: Netflix
Love & Basketball, 2000
Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps, Alfre Woodard
Quincy (Epps) and Monica (Lathan) are childhood friends, growing up in Los Angeles with Basketball at the center of their lives. The film watches the pair through high school into college at USC as they pursue professional careers. Flashing forward, Quincy follows his father's path and goes pro, while Monica plays in Barcelona. The two reunite before Quincy’s wedding, missing each other and their intertwined past.
Where to watch: Vudu, Amazon
Medicine for Melancholy, 2009
Directed by: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins
In a heavily gentrified San Francisco, Jo (Heggins) maintains a long-distance relationship with an older white man. While at a party, she meets Micah (Cenac), and the two go home together. The following day they explore the city, speaking of race and the struggles they share. The film is the first film by Barry Jenkins, director of Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk.
Where to watch: Amazon
Directed by: Rick Famuyiwa
Starring: Shameik Moore, Zoe Kravitz, Tony Revelori, ASAP Rocky
High school Senior Malcolm (Moore), struggles to stand out in his application to Ivy League universities that would pull him out of his low-income neighborhood of Inglewood. He falls into favor with an alum but is tasked to become part of a drug ring in exchange for a letter of recommendation. With the help of his love interest Nakia (Kravitz) and his friends, he balances his desire for success with crime.
Where to watch: Amazon, Vudu
Directed by: Rashaad Ernesto Green
Starring: Zora Howard, Joshua Boone, Taishana Washington
The summer before leaving for college, Ayanna (Howard) meets a charming Isaish (Boone) who has just moved to New York. On the precipice of adulthood, Ayanna questions her own path forward as she falls in love, deciding whether or not to leave a man she has fallen so hard for.
Where to watch: Amazon
The Photograph, 2020
Directed by: Stella Meghie
Starring: Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield, Kelvin Harrison Jr.
Mae (Rae) has just lost her mother and begins to unravel her mother’s past life as a photographer and story of leaving her love Isaac behind in New Orleans. Michael (Stanfield), a journalist interested in chronicling the lives of residents post-Katrina, meets Isaac and in turn his daughter Mae. As a relationship develops between Mae and Michael, the film flashes back to the history of Mae’s mother and Issac.Where to watch: Amazon