2013 will go down in history as the year Black cinema turned a corner. While mainstream outlets like the NY Times declared 2013 the “breakout year in Black film” and BuzzFeed cynically observed that “we’ve been here before” (we haven’t), ultimately moviegoers had the final say at the box office. First time directors like Sheldon Candis (“LUV”) and Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station”) gave distinct voices to the young Black male narrative. Terence Nance broke out of the box with a fantastical journey of love in the animated “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty.”
2013 also proved to be a success for Black film both critically and financially. Steve McQueen’s ”12 Years A Slave” is proving to be a forerunner in next year’s award circuit, already garnering seven Golden Globe nominations and four SAG award noms. ”Lee Daniels’ The Butler” generated over $116 million in U.S. ticket sales and an even more impressive $45 million overseas — a rare feat considering most Black films directed by Black directors rarely do well at the foreign box office. Mainstream (read: White) film critics and analysts dismissively low-balled “Best Man Holiday” with a soft $19 million opening, were left with egg on their faces when it came in at #2 spot with a $30 million, right on the heels of “Thor: The Dark World.”
Black independent film is still holding strong as AFFRM (African American Film Releasing Movement) released its sixth feature, “Big Words.” AFFRM’s founder, Ava DuVernay, who made history as the first African-American woman to win Best Director at Sundance, marked another milestone as the first Black woman to direct a network primetime series created by a Black woman (Shonda Rhimes), starring a Black actress (Kerry Washington).
The Urban Daily has rounded up their favorite (and not so favorite) releases this year with their respective grades.