Black History Month: film directors you need to know

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In celebration of Black History Month, here’s a list of some of our favourite black directors and their must-watch films.

Tim Story: Fantastic Four (2005)

Of course, if you haven’t seen this classic superhero film then it goes without saying that you’ve been living under a rock. And if you’ve only seen the 2015 film, then this is a necessary watch purely to prove that remakes are rarely better than the originals. Tim Story’s works his directing here to an all-time high, beautifully exemplifying what goes into making a superhero film.

Being released in 2005, this film came out before the phenomenon that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe showed the world how prominent superhero films can be. What is more “fantastic” about this, however, is that the second film (Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer) came out two years later and was also directed by Story.

Story has over the years proven himself as a one of Hollywood’s best directors, even demonstrating his versatility with other endeavours such as the 2014 film Ride Along.

Jordan Peele: Us

On the topic of versatility, there is no person more befitting of the word that Jordan Peele, a certified tour de force and modern giant in Hollywood. Though his directing has only begun relatively recently, you’ve undoubtedly seen plenty of his acting roles, most famously in the comedy show Key & Peele, for which he was a writer and actor alongside Keegan-Michael Key – another legend.

While you may have only known Peele from this, it is hard to believe that his works as a director are on par with that of his comedy. Mainly delving into horrors and thrillers, the former comedy actor has demonstrated his ability of distilling fear into an audience, with his debut film Get Out pioneering a new style of psychological horror; also starring the multi-talented Daniel Kaluuya.

Though you have probably already seen this, as most have, what you may not have already watched is his second film as a director, Us – a chilling thriller about an uprising of human counterparts and their taking over America as we follow a family desperately trying to evade their own doubles. Not for the faint-hearted.

Ava DuVernay: Selma and I Will Follow

Noted for her documentaries and being the first black female director to make a film nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, Ava DuVernay has cemented herself as a directing great.

After doing shorts and documentaries throughout the early 2000s, DuVernay won the directing award for her second feature film, Middle of Nowhere, at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. She has piled up a substantial filmography in her years, two of the most notable being the films Selma and I Will Follow.

Of the two, it is hard to say which is better, so we have therefore decided to simply give them both their due diligence. Both are equally hard-hitting films, though in different ways.

Selma is a biopic of civil rights leader and prominent black figure Dr Martin Luther King Jr, following his campaign to gain equal voting rights in a strenuous march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.

I Will Follow is quite different as it spans across the day of an African-American woman grieving the death of a loved one, whilst simultaneously moving house. In the film, she receives 12 visitors, who all aid her in her journey to move forward.

Spike Lee: BlacKkKlansman

Now, was there any doubt as to who would take the final spot on our list of top picks? Any collection of directors would need to include the legendary Spike Lee – hint, it’s a great way to check how credible a list is!

Though a man of a smaller stature, Lee waltzes through Hollywood like he owns it – which is fair enough if you look at his body of work; having made a name for himself through his sublime acting, screenwriting, producing and, of course, directing. Since his first feature film in 1985, She’s Gotta Have It, Lee has rolled out a filmography so good that he’s now a household name.

One of his more recent directing endeavours, BlacKkKlansman follows African-American police officer Ron Stallworth’s risky business of infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan with the help of a Jewish surrogate. Based on a true story, this film is teeming with Lee’s familiar flair, making it one of the best films of 2018.