1. Daughters of the Dust (d. Julie Dash, 1991)
Generational tension arise as early 20th century Gullah women of St. Helena Island face encroaching assimilation via mainland migration. Featuring a narrative structure closer to that of oral tradition, it’s possibly the most authentic Creole vernacular on celluloid. Ancestral veneration at its finest. An alum of the L.A. Rebellion, Julie Dash’s feature was the first film by an African-American woman distributed theatrically in the United States.
2. Winter’s Bone (d. Debra Granik, 2010)
A meth tinged rural-noir with my personal favorite performance from breakout star Jennifer Lawrence. The last great American flick I can recall exploring the US’ culture of poverty.
3. Sugar (d. Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, 2008)
An immigrant story cloaked in a sports drama highlighting the internal contradictions of pursuing the American Dream via America’s favorite pastime.
4. Eve’s Bayou (d. Kasi Lemmons, 1997)
A womanist coming of age story within the milieu of Creole Voodoo without the spooky stigmas or corny stereotypes of southern Louisiana.
5. The House is Black (d. Forough Farrokhzad, 1962)
“For I have been made in a strange and frightening shape. My bones were not hidden from you when I was being created, I was molded in the bowls of the earth.” More poetic than ethnographic, The House is Black by radical Iranian female artist Forough Farrokhzad documents a shunned leper society in 1960’s Iran. Hearing them speak of their condition one can’t help but find parallels between theirs and the black experience in the present day US. The film was banned twice in Iran. The 1st time for 30 years, then again for 10.
6. 35 Rhums or 35 Shots of Rum (d. Claire Denis, 2008)
A quaint and atmospheric drama built upon the strains between aging paternal and romantic love in Paris.
7. Meshes of the Afternoon (d. Maya Deron. 1943)
Inception before inception, a short surrealist dreamscape for my avant garde cinephiles. Also, the cloaked mirror figure inspired that found in Sun Ra’s Space is the Place.
8. Mississippi Damned (d. Tina Mabry, 2009)
A heavy hearted familial drama with a nuanced and non gendered approach to the cycle of sexual abuse within a southern black community. Also one of DP Bradford Young’s best.
9. Seven Beauties (d. Lina Wertmuller, 1975)
A cynical and satirical Forrest Gump like epic of survival during fascist Italy & Europe through the eyes of an apathetic Italian gangster. Stylish and appropriately harsh in its depictions of German concentration camps. Not that it matters at all but its worth noting the film earned Lina Wertmuller the first Best Director Oscar nomination for a woman.
10. Cléo from 5 to 7 (d. Agnes Varda, 1962)
A real time portrait of a pop singer reflecting upon her image and the validity of her relationships as she waits for the results of a biopsy. A staple of French New Wave in form and content. There’s now a feminist film journal named after its title character who’s website describes the protagonist as “coming to self realization through the observation and mastering of her space”.
– from savage, with love