As a filmmaker, there are certain films that show me the intimacy, power, and depth that cinema has the ability to manifest, and reminds me why I chose this profession. Here a few of my favorite films:

Love and Basketball

For the textured relationship between Monica and Quincy- it’s so well-developed through out the course of the film, and beautifully intertwined with the theme of basketball, which takes on different meanings for both characters. The script is also genius- every time I watch it or read it, I pick up a new hint or clue that Bythewood establishes at the beginning of the film that leads to a riveting pay-off towards the end. I also love how the film explores the sexism and rigid standards within the male and female sports realms.

Malcolm X

This film probably had one of the biggest cinematic influences on me as a child. I was already heavily invested in black history and culture at an early age and seeing this movie really put an image to one of the people I was fascinated with- Malcolm X. This has got to be one of Denzel Washington’s strongest performances EVER. I remember going to see this film with my father at Grand Lake Theater in Oakland- it was one of the most exciting movie experiences I’ve ever had- the theater was PACKED. People were howling, clapping, crying, and fully involved with the film. Everyone stayed through out the entire credits ( and they were really long). It was just overall an experience that shaped my perspective on the power that film can have on people. I know that because of this film, so many who hadn’t read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, went out and bought it, and some people came out of that theater with a fuller conception of their history and the struggles of not only Malcolm X, but of people striving for change in the past and present.  If you’re looking for an awesome bio-pic, this is the one for you- this film brought me through the full range of emotions, the performances are raw, honest, and intimate, and no matter your view of Malcolm X, you will see him as a person in this film.

The Piano

Okay, so you know a movie is good when it can make an unattractive actor seem so sexy. That is what The Piano does for Harvey Keitel’s character, George Baines. Holly Hunter, who plays Ada, engages in a PASSIONATE affair with George (Keital) as she provides him piano lessons. I capitalize “passionate” because it is this affair and eventual love between them, all set to the melodies of Ada’s piano, that makes Keital go from a scruffy man (in my eyes) to a devoted and sensual lover. The depth that Hunter and Keital bring to this pairing is one that makes this film so memorable. Ada is mute, using sign language and handwritten notes to communicate. Hunter does a superb job of allowing us to fully understand her wants, needs, and desires with no words -she is able to infuse the character with such boldness and temperament, that we know exactly what she’s feeling. The cinematography also supplements the murky, haunting world that the characters inhabit- with constant rain, mud, and gloom.  Albeit the somewhat problematic portrayals of the Moari people of New Zealand (when will Hollywood ever get this right?), this film is one of my favorite for it’s steamy, passionate portrayal of a burgeoning love affair, and the conflict that surrounds it.

Central Do Brasil

I was straight up CRYING at the end of this film. Perhaps it was the unlikely, but strong bond that the two main characters developed. Dora, a retired, cranky teacher and letter writer for illiterate citizens in Brazil, becomes the temporary caretaker for Josue’, a 9-year-old boy who’s mother is killed, and seeks to be reunited with his father. As they journey through out Brazil to find his father, Dora goes from a reluctant provider to Josue’, to a watchful guardian and friend to him. The film built up to a cathartic, emotional moment for me. Something about it felt like I was Josue’ and Dora had become MY friend through the journey. This film really made me feel connected and a part of their relationship. It does an excellent job of showing how two very different people- an old woman and young boy are in fact so much alike due to their lives- both lonely and in need of a friend- so they become that to each other. The film also captures an interesting dimension of Brazil’s religious landscape- which adds a sacred, yet haunting element… you have to see it!

Sin Nombre

This is a new favorite of mine and well-deserved. First off, visually this is a BEAUTIFUL film. The cinematography is rich and layered as it captures Mexican landscapes aboard moving trains. It is a suspense thriller with a dramatic,personal edge. I appreciate this film for the intimacy between characters. Casper and Sayda’s relationship reminds me of that of Josue’ and Dora because it is so unlikely, but also crucial for them. Casper is a former gang-member and Sayda is a young woman trying to make it across the border to New Jersey. They come to depend on one another for as much emotional support, as much-needed survival. But danger follows them as Casper’s shady past haunts him at every twist and turn, threatening their will to escape.

Mississippi Masala

Genius film. I am always fascinated by movies that strive to address tough questions about societal issues by crafting cinematic stories. That is what Mira Nair does in this film about Indian immigrants twice-displaced, and their relationships with African-Americans in Mississippi. Mina and Demetrius strike up a relationship with one another in this film and it unites more than them, but their respective communities, which ignites into a full-on conflict involving racism, colorism, and classism. Love this film! http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi513212697/

That’s all for now! Come back next time for more of my favorite films!