Editor: Fanta Sylla (fansylla@gmail.com)

“Film Theory, as concerns Black American cinema between 1967 and the present, is marked by several characteristics. Nearly all of the books and articles are underwritten by a sense of urgency regarding the tragic history and bleak future of a group of people marked by slavery in the Western Hemisphere; this, they would all agree, is the constitutive element of the word Black. To this end, most are concerned with how cinematic representation hastens that bleak future or intervenes against it. Cinema then, has pedagogic value, or, perhaps more precisely, pedagogic potential. Broadly speaking, Black film theory hinges on these questions: What does cinema teach Blacks about Blacks? What does cinema teach Whites (and others) about Blacks? Are those lessons dialogic with Black liberation or with our further, and rapidly repetitive, demise?”


“I’m saying, however, that not only does the drive toward a presentation of a Black film canon show a desire to participate in the institutionality of cinema, but the work itself shows a desire to participate in the institutionality of academia. And “participation” is a register unavailable to slaves. Black film theory, as an intervention, would have a more destructive impact if it foregrounded the impossibility of a Black film, the impossibility of a Black film theory, the impossibility of a Black film theorist, and the impossibility of a Black person except, and this is key, under “cleansing” (Fanon) conditions of violence. Once real violence is coupled with representational “monstrosity” (Spillers’ notion of a Black embrace of absolute vulnerability), then and only then is there a possibility for Blacks to move from the status of things to the status of…of what, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

- Frank B. Wilderson in The Narcissistic Slave  from Red, Black, White Cinema and The Structure of U.S. Antagonisms

Film criticism/theory & afropessimism

The Narcissistic Slave by Frank B. Wilderson III in Red, Black, White Cinema & The Structure of U.S. Antagonisms

The Future Weird: an interview with Derica Shields - Black Girls Talking

THE HYENA'S LAST LAUGH: A conversation with Djibril Diop Mambety

The Ruse of Engagement: Black Masculinity and the Cinema of Policing by Jared Sexton

Neoliberalism and the New Afro-Pessimism: Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Hyènes

From Birth to Blaxploitation: Hollywood’s Inscription of Slavery by Ed Guerrero


Playing in the Dark: Whiteness & The Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison

The Devil Finds Work: James Baldwin on Film by Ashley Clark  

The Fact of Blackness from Black Skin White Masks by Frantz Fanon

“In The Interval”: Frantz Fanon and the “Problems” of Visual Representation

Slavery, Freedom, and African American Apotheosis in Candyman, The Matrix, and The Green Mile by Kim D. Hester-Williams

“Haile Gerima and the Political Economy of Cinematic Resistance” by Mike Murashige

Death, violence and representation 

Scenes of Subjection by Saidiya Hartman

Body Cam by Rooney Elmi

Detroit, a review by Angelica Jade Bastien

Inscribing Ethical Space Ten Propositions on Death, Representation, and Documentary (chapter p. 226)  by Vivian Sobchack

Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag

Snuff 2.0. : real death goes HD ready by Mark Astley

The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning by Maggie Nelson

The Shock of the Cruel: Do artistic portrayals of viciousness help us overcome it?

Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940 by Amy Louise Wood

Film of the Week : Playground by Jonathan Romney

Close- Up: Fugitivity and the Filmic Imagination Reinventing Capacity: Black Femininity Lyrical Surplus, and the Cinematic Limits of 12 Years a Slave by Rizvana Bradley

Daech, le cinéma et la mort par Jean-Louis Comolli

Mise-en-scène or Black cinema is not (just) sociology

The discussion of black literature in critical terms is unfailingly sociology and almost never art criticism- Memory, Creation and Writing by Toni Morrison

On Beauty and Being Just by Elaine Scarry

Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag

“That is the primary object of our experience, not whatever flimsy moral one could decoct from the well-crafted but unexceptionable plot structure of the film. This book, then, was avowedly written under the sway of the slogan, “In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art.” I associated the allegorical interpretation of plot with literary hermeneutics and heard the call for erotics as involving and appeal to treat film as a visual experience – a matter of seeing construed as a physical act – specifically with reference to The General, a matter of seeing a certain range of recurring sight gags represented by means of a distinctive cinematic style.”

- Introduction: The Phenomenological Background in Comedy Incarnate: Buster Keaton, Physical Humor, and Bodily Coping by Noel Carroll

‘Unlike most of the other interview/profiles appearing in the early 1990s, the Positif piece focuses as much on film technique, cinematic vocabulary, and style as on content.’ Interview with Charles Burnett (1990) - Positif

Close-Up: “The Brown Bag of Miscellany” Zora Neale Hurston and the Practice of Overexposure by Autumn Womack

Review: An Oversimplification of Her Beauty by Ina Diane Archer

Shadowboxing: Lee Daniels’s Nonrepresentational Cinema by Alessandra Raengo

Ed. note: I really, really like the excerpts I’ve read from this so if anyone has access to the book/article please contact me.

Off-Screen space by Pascal Bonitzer in Cahiers du Cinéma (1971)

Ed. note: In a basic filmic language, Black people, in a white supremacist context, constitute the off-screen space (what cannot be seen, what is kept out of society/the frame) while white people constitute the on-screen space. It’s only a matter of framing (the world) i.e. just because it is kept out of the frame doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

‘But what gives such a scene the ability to stand apart, to take on a life of its own?’  from The Scene issue - Cinephile Vol. 5 No. 2

Interview: Axelle Ropert - Film Comment

Ed. note: I love Axelle Ropert, one of my favorite film critics. She’s very severe, knows how to articulate and defend her tastes and what she wants to see on the screen. Through her various reviews, she gave me a language to talk about race in film and mise-en-scène, without specifically talking about it (race, I mean). Love what she says here about beauty and actresses, and directing the films she wants to see (very Morrisonian).

Celluloid and Stone: Eric Rohmer interview from L’Avant-Scène du cinéma 336 in Eric Rohmer: Interviews (Conversations With Filmmakers)

E Unibus Pluram: Television & U.S. Fiction by David Foster Wallace

Bordwell on Bordwell: Part III - Writing On Film Style by Jakob Isak Nielsen

Sound & Color

“…voices in any culture that are not meant to be heard are perceived as loud when they do speak, regardless of their decibel level.” - Kathleen Rowe

Why, in 2016, are women still (mostly) silent film stars? - The Guardian

Echo and Narcissus: Women's Voices in Classical Hollywood Cinema by  Amy Lawrence

The Voice in Cinema by Michel Chion

The All-Time Top 100 Voices in the Movies - AMC

A centrifugal force: the magnetic sounds of Trevor Mathison by Ashley Clark

 Interview: John Akomfrah - Sound On Film

Sound On Film - edited by Frances Morgan

White (introduction) by Richard Dyer

Ed. note: A+++ book on the representation of whiteness

Colour in Film: the 10 best film colour systems - BFI

Questions of Colour in Cinema edited by Wendy Everett

You Can't Put Blue Lights On Black Girls! by Beyoncé

“In the Same Way Painters Used Their Paint…”: D.P. Bradford Young on Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and Mother of George - Filmmaker Magazine

‘12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Mother of George,’ and the aesthetic politics of filming black skin - Washington Post

Do Black people move on-screen?

"The cinema story starts with the human body, or an action. We always have, and we still love to watch human bodies in action. We also love to watch landscapes or things we have created, buildings or cigarettes, guns and cars... but above all, we love to watch human bodies, whether they're walking, running, fucking, or anything." - Leos Carax


Sambos and Minstrels by Sylvia Wynter

In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition by Fred Moten

Spectacular Bodies: Gender, genre and the action cinema by Yvonne Tasker

Bits and Bumps: gender, comedy and the body by Bridget Boyle

VIOLA DAVIS @ Charlie Rose (video)

Film Fights: 1910-1912 by Lee Grieveson Policing Cinema

Movie of the week: Down Argentine Way - New Yorker

Dancing Reveals So Much: An Interview with Claire Denis - Senses of Cinema

Approach the Black Actor: beyond representation

Hattie McDaniel: Or A Credit To The Motion Picture Industry (video) by Ina Diane Archer

Anatomy of a Black Actress: Viola Davis 

Overlooked Black Performers - Film Comment

Denzel Washington Makes Guarantees (video)

Sidney Poitier by James Baldwin

On Joie Lee in Do the Right Thing (and More) by Cassie da Costa

Regina Hall might just be the best actress you don’t know by Soraya Nadia McDonald

Ed. note: Regina Hall is a genius.

Love and Hollywood: Sanaa Lathan Prepares for Her Comeback in ‘The Perfect Guy’ by Rachel Handler

Interview: Mbissine Thérèse Diop by Livia Bloom - Film Comment

Divas on Screen: Black Women in American Film by Mia Mask

Fatal Beauties: Black Women in Hollywood by Karen Alexander

Falling For You: Essays on Cinema and Performance (review)

Putting on a Show, or The Ghostliness of Gesture by Lesley Stern

Who Blinked First? by David Bordwell


“An ideal black feminist film theory therefore shifts our emphasis from manifest images or the icons of black womanhood, and places greater attention on the mysterious give-and-take between images and viewers, the variation and unpredictability involved in spectatorship that takes place in the dark, collective privacy of the cinema.” - Terri Simone Francis

The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators by bell hooks

Love & Hip Hop in the Time of Shonda Rhimes by Zeba Blay

The Pleasure of Looking: Black Female Spectatorship and the Supermama Heroine in Baad Bitches and Sassy Supermamas: Black Power Action by Stephane Dunn


Ed. note: the last paragraph is 💥

Green Like Me by Jane Gaines

“She Will Never Look” Film Spectatorship, Black Feminism, and Scary Subjectivities by Terri Simone Francis

Visual Perversions: Race, Sex, and Cinematic Pleasure by Eve Oishi

Reality TV & Voyeurism by Mark Andrejevic

Recreational Terror: Women and the Pleasures of Horror Film Viewing by Isabel Cristina Pinedo

Ed. note: perverse > problematic

Manhattan Transference: Taxi Driver by Ashley Clark        

Black music video is Black cinema

Derica Shields on Missy Elliott, Janet Jackson, Lil Kim’ and the cyborg for Rhizome

Believe the Hype: Hype Williams and Afrofuturist Filmmaking by Thomas  F. Defrantz

In Defense of Belly / Bombast: Belly

is kahlil joseph hip hop’s most important video director? - i-D

Kahlil Joseph’s “Until the Quiet Comes”: The Afriscape Ghost Dance on Film (part. I and II) by Duane Deterville

Compression Aesthetics: Glitch From the Avant-Garde to Kanye West 

Critic's Notebook: Beyonce's 'Lemonade' Is a Revolutionary Work of Black Feminism by Miriam Bale

We Slay, Part I by Zandria Robinson

Monster Metaphors: Notes on Michael Jackson’s Thriller by Kobena Mercer

Armond White on Music Videos

Black Women Directors

Muse as Critic, Returning the Gaze from the Pedestal by Kareem Reid


“Eating the (M)Other: Cheryl Dunye’s Feature Films and Black Matrilineage” by Frann Michel

Reading the Signs, Empowering the Eye: Daughters of the Dust and the Black Independent Cinema movement by Toni Cade Bambara

Special Tribute to Kathleen Conwell Collins Prettyman: Filmmaker, Playwright, Novelist - Black Film Review

African Women of the Screen at the Digital Turn by Beti Ellerson

Transforming Pornography: Black Porn for Black Women by Sinnamon Love

Black Women’s Histories: A Conversation with Mireille Miller-Young

A Taste For Brown Sugar! Black Women in Pornography by Mireille Miller-Young

Black Feminism and The Independent film by Mark A. Reid

Reconstituting the image: the emergence of the black woman director by Valerie Smith


“Films are not necessarily good because black people make them. They are not necessarily 'right-on' by virtue of the fact that they deal with the black experience.”

New Ethnicities by Stuart Hall

On Dope: Sundance Diary, Days 1-4: Exploitation Blues by Wesley Morris

The Mild Controversies of Dear White People by Richard Brody

Black American cinema

Black American Cinema by Manthia Diawara

Rhinestone Sharecropping: A Novel by Bill Gunn

The New Ghetto Aesthetic by Jacquie Jones

An interview with Melvin Van Peebles: “I don’t know what a New Wave style is. That’s some shit.” by Miriam Bale

Migrations, Movies and African American cities on screen

The Geography of Melodrama, The Melodrama of Geography: The Hood Film’s Special Pathos

“Race  / Riot / Cinema” by Jane Gaines

“The Re-Birth of an Aesthetic in Cinema” by Clyde Taylor

“New US Black Cinema” by Clyde Taylor

"It is not Hitchcock's way; it is Sembène's way.": African auteurs

Cinemas of the Black Diaspora: Diversity, Dependence, and Oppositionality by Michael T. Martin

African Cinema in the Nineties - Mbye Cham

The Uniqueness of Ousmane Sembène’s cinema by Françoise Pfaff

Ceddo (dir. Ousmane Sembène) by Serge Daney

Ed. note: one of the rare French film critics translated in English: http://sergedaney.blogspot.fr/

An interview with Med Hondo


Viewing African Cinema in the Twenty-First Century: Art Films and the Nollywood Video Revolution ed. by Mahir Saul, Ralph A. Austen

Global Nollywood: The Transnational Dimensions of an African Video Film Industry by Matthias Krings, Onookome Okome

Zina Saro-Wiwa’s ‘Phyllis’ and the subversion of Nollywood cinema by Justin Scott

Caribbean cinema

Trinbagonianness in Film: National Identity in Trinidad and Tobago Cinema by Kafi Kareem

Ex-Iles: Essays on Caribbean Cinema by Mbye Cham

Sound and Vision in the Caribbean Imaginary by JEAN ANTOINE-DUNNE

Auto-Ethnographic Impulse in Rue Cases-Nègres

Black British cinema

Black Audio Film Collective interview by Coco Fusco

The films of Isaac Julien: Look back and talk black

Representing reality and ‘the black experience’ in 1970s Britain + British Cinema into the 1980’s by Lola Young

Watch Strolling A Powerful Webseries About The African Diaspora by Alexis Okeowo


The Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto by Martine Syms

The Monophobic Response by Octavia Butler

Black Space: ​Imagining Race in Science Fiction Filmby Adilifu Nama

The double agency of Will Smith in sci-fi by Justin Phillip Reed

“Animation's excursions into the impossible allow bodies to erupt and explode, fly and roar.”

“Animation studies, often protective of the playful spirit of the ’toon itself, have until recently tended to avoid this sort of knotty question—bracketing animation’s less than honorable history of representational, performative, and industrial practices of racism, misogyny, and homophobia—perhaps fearing that animation’s subordinate status when compared to live cinema, its perpetual dismissal as childish, will be once more confirmed.” -Birth of an industry : blackface minstrelsy and the rise of American animation by Nicholas Sammond

Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist by Nancy Goldstein

Cartoon Acting by Michael Barrier

The film / your body

What My Fingers Knew: The CinThen I'll Be Free to Travel Homeesthetic Subject, or Vision in the Flesh by Vivian Sobchack

Questions of embodied difference: Film and queer phenomenology by Katharina Lindner

"With Skin and Hair": Kracauer's Theory of Film, Marseille 1940 by Miriam Hansen

Cinema and Embodied Affect by Anne Rutherford

No such a thing as a documentary

The documentary impulse in contemporary African-American cinema by Valerie Smith

Documentary Is/Not a Name by Trinh T. Minh-ha

Les Statues Meurent Aussi: (video) short documentary by Alain Resnais

The Spectacle of Reality and Documentary Film by Elizabeth Cowie

An Aesthetic Appropriate to Conditions: Killer of Sheep, (Neo)Realism, and the Documentary Impulse by Paula J. Massood

Adrian Younge in “New Soul Rebel” (video) by Malik Hassan Sayeed and Arthur Jafa - NOWNESS presents

Frederick Wiseman by Nicholas Elliott


HORROR NOIRE: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present by Robin R. Means Coleman

Ganja and Hess: Vampires, sex, and addictions by Manthia Diawara & Phyllis Klotman

Presentations: Black Women in Horror Films from the 1930's-Present

Unholy Trinity by Femburton

Pot-pourri (philo, science etc.)

Creativity and refusal by Zadie Smith

Existence & Existents by Emmanuel Levinas

Laughter: An Essay on the meaning of the comic by Henri Bergson

For Opacity by Edouard Glissant

Mirror Neurons, Embodied Simulation, and the Neural Basis of Social Identification

SCENT, SOUND AND SYNAESTHESIA: Intersensoriality and Material Culture Theory by David Howes

Black criticism

‘There are times when the white critic must sit down and listen.’ - Bill Gunn

It's All We Got: Carving Out Space For Black Art Critics by Kareem Reid

The Power of Black Film Criticism by Elisabeth Reich

Returning the Gaze: A Genealogy of Black Film Criticism, 1909–1949 by Anna Everett

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