Tag Archives: african americans in television

Neema Barnette zooms in on gospel cinema

30 Mar

If you’re a fan of gospel cinema, you know it’s a genre of film that fuses elements of African-American culture, tenets of Christian faith, and themes of family. These films, also known as faith-based or inspirational movies, bring strong melodrama, heart-breaking scenes that show characters falling to their knees or coming home to the church, emotional climaxes with rousing songs by gospel choirs, and of course, that one character representing the voice of wisdom.  Gospel cinema’s  titles include The Gospel, Woman Thou Art Loosed, Not Easily Broken, Preaching to the Choir, Blessed & Cursed and Preacher’s Kid, and its influence is seen in more entertainment-oriented, mainstream works like Jumping the Broom, Joyful Noise, Fighting Temptations, and many of Tyler Perry’s films.

While gospel cinema often has women protagonists and a loyal following among female audiences, it is as rare to find a woman in the director’s chair as it is to find one at the pulpit.  So as you can imagine, it’s an exciting development to see a female director behind this latest gospel cinema film, Bishop TD Jakes’ Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day. And it’s all the more exciting that the woman in question is as noteworthy and sought-after as director Neema Barnette.

Neema Barnette is the most prolific black female director to date, having helmed TV episodes, films, and TV movies going back three decades.  Barnette’s career has inspired many black female directors, including myself, to work in this field. In the 90’s, it was Neema Barnette on the mainstream tip and Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust) on the indie, showing the world that black women can make movies. Fast forward to 2012 and Neema Barnette is adding her vision and talent to the world of gospel cinema.

I got to catch a special preview screening of On the 7th Day – Neema Barnette in appearance, moderated by black film pioneer Warrington Hudlin – at the Museum of the Moving Image in NYC.  On the 7th Day is described as “a gripping thriller and family drama, filmed on location in New Orleans, about a husband and wife who find themselves in the midst of a crisis when their young daughter is kidnapped. The kidnapper is supposedly a serial killer who murders his victims ‘On the 7th Day.’ During their desperate search, a series of deep secrets unveil a troubling past, putting the marriage and their futures in jeopardy.”

For gospel cinema fans, On the 7th Day delivers big time, showing Sharon Leal (Why Did I Get Married) and the iconic Blair Underwood as the embattled husband and wife, with appearances by Pam Grier, Nicole Beharie and Bishop TD Jakes. The  insights that Barnette brings as a black female director add social relevance and cultural sensitivity to the work, while the story takes the genre in a new direction as an intense suspense thriller. Tears will roll as the characters’ faith is tested and, ultimately, restored.

Will this couple’s daughter survive the kidnapping? Check out Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day, which opens in theaters April 13, to find out. Distributed by Codeblack Entertainment.



CHOICES web series trailer

15 Feb

CHOICES, the new dramatic web series!! Online soap!! 17 characters. 8 dramas. 7 webisodes. CHOICES. Sometimes life will make you do things you never thought you would do. CHOICES. CHOICEStheSeries.com

CHOICES is a series of soap-style flash dramas with intertwined story lines. The series highlights top notch acting with writing and direction by filmmaker Olu Gittens. CHOICES shows characters from all walks of life who are somehow connected to each other…as we all are. CHOICES is about the options life puts before us and the decisions we make along the way. Life is a series of CHOICES.


Mark Ellmore as Gov. Gary Mitchell
Ellen Haynes as Margaret Mitchell
Tiffani Coleman as Carmen
Gabe Vargas as James
Adam Shuty as Paul
Debra Jans as Mary
Graham Powell as Peter
Ivy Livingston as Olivia
Elizabeth Powers as Jane
Erik McKay as Mike
Alexander Mulzac as Keith
Kristen Hung as Cathy
Danyel Fulton as Shanelle
Kianne Muschett as Shervonne
Elisa Pupko as Regan
Scott T. Miller as Chapman
Joshua Feinberg as Motulsky
Produced at the television studios of Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN), New York City. http://www.choicestheseries.com http://www.ohgeeproductions.com

Olu Gittens writes Atlanta Post article on black television writers

18 Jun

Ever since the days of Flip, Fred and Bill, African-Americans have been working hard behind the scenes to give us the television shows we love.

I got the chance to explore and share the topic of black television writers and writer-producers in an article for the Atlanta Post*. Writing “African-American Television Writers: Breaking Barriers & Creating History” was a great opportunity for me, as it allowed me to share information about people I admire.

The small screen, like the big one, is a place we go, not just for entertainment, but to connect with the images and ideas that matter to us.

Find out more about blacks making huge moves in TV today, with a bit of info about the ground breakers, too.




*The Atlanta Post is now Madame Noire, a division of Moguldom Media