The Sheba Soul Ensemble Watchlist

The Sheba Soul Ensemble recommends the extraordinary films of Black women directors from across the world

20 November 2020

Our organisation promotes the work of Black women directors from around the world through a series of online, widely accessible events that have been running from May of this year.

With this in mind, we want to recommend to you films that are also widely accessible, and that capture our mission.

Here are some of our recommendations:

Patu! (1981)
Director: Merata Mita
Merata Mita was an extraordinary Maori filmmaker. Patu! charts the opposition in New Zealand to the Springbok tour, resulting in the tour being abandoned. A real testimony to the ‘power of the people’ when differences are put to one side and people unite behind a common cause. The depiction is so detailed, and so intimate, that by the end of the film you feel like you have taken part yourself. Food for the soul. Available to watch for free on the New Zealand Film website here.

A Dry White Season (1989) 
Director: Euzhan Palcy
The relevance and stature of this film does not fade with time, depicting the escalating horrors of apartheid. Euzhan Palcy, who originated from the French Caribbean island of Martinique, was the first Black woman director of a film produced by a major Hollywood studio, and A Dry White Season was Oscar-nominated for Marlon Brando’s role as Best Supporting Actor. Tissues at the ready. Available to rent here.

Daughters of the Dust (1991)
Director: Julie Dash
A stunning, wistful feast of a film. So many of the shots are so carefully constructed you would think the set up and arrangement  must have taken forever. The narrative explores a community on Gullah, an island in South Carolina at a crossroads, who are faced with complicated decisions that will determine their destiny. It’s a film that will linger and nourish you. A film to watch when you need your faith in the world restored. Available to rent on BFI Player here.

One Night the Moon (2001)
Director: Rachel Perkins 
This is a lesser-known work by one of Australia’s leading Indigenous Australian filmmakers. It unearths the deep racist seams of a rural outpost when a young girl sets out to follow the moon. Beautifully shot, and with stunning footage of the Australian landscapes, what makes this film even more unusual is that it is delivered as an opera. If you think that’s an odd mix, think again. An utterly captivating film. Available to watch on Vimeo here.

Bride and Prejudice (2004)
Director: Gurinder Chadha  
We love Gurinder Chadha’s work! She channels so many different slants on people’s lives, no more so than in this quirky, brilliantly executed modern-day Bollywood reworking of Pride and Prejudice. A tongue-in-cheek, uplifting and colourful musical that will definitely dispel the doldrums. Available on Amazon here.

The Mayor’s Race (2018)
Director: Loraine Blumenthal
In the aftermath of the recent US election, this behind-the-scenes look at the psychological toll of standing for office will resonate. The documentary outlines Marvin Rees’ failed and then successful attempt to become the elected Mayor of Bristol. It allows us momentarily to think that it might not always be about the power. Available for rental on Vimeo here.

Brotherhood (2018)
Director: Meryam Joobeur
Meryam Joobeur is a Tunisian Canadian filmmaker who dropped into one of our online festival events, so we’ve learnt a lot about her artistic vision and aspirations. A full-length feature-version of this intensely beautiful short film is on its way, but for now watch this heart-warming story filmed in remote Tunisia. It’s visually lovely. Watch it on Vimeo here.

Miss Juneteenth (2020)
Director: Channing Godfrey Peoples
I have a total aversion to beauty competitions, but there is more to the context of this pageant than meets the eye. This tender depiction of a mother daughter relationship is Channing Godfrey Peoples’ first feature, and she is definitely a filmmaker to watch. Available to rent on BFI Player here.

Once Upon a Time in Venezuela (2020)
Director: Anabel Rodriguez Rios
One of our FLY! events, curated by Lorena Pino, focused on the experience of children. This documentary stands out in many ways; through the story of one village, it portrays a disintegration of Venezuela, but it also prompts some deeper reflection on the reality of children’s lives in this crazy 21st-century world. Beautiful and deeply disturbing, this is a film you will be glad to have watched. There is more information on accessing this film here.

Sheba Soul Ensemble will be back in the festival hot seat in January with 2 events, and again for International Women’s Day, with 8 events. Dates to be announced shortly; please keep an eye on our website for further updates.

Our festivals and events offer a space to debate as well as creative workshops, while focusing on Black women directors from around the world and their handling of intersectionality. To join our mailing list, contact