Nevline Nnaji- 2018
Documentary filmmaker focusing on black women’s lives and founder of the New Negress Film Society
A New Lens on History
By Abenezer Belamo
Looking back on history, the Civil Rights movement is regarded as the cornerstone for the progress towards equality for people of color. While this is somewhat true, the story is different for black women. Black women were facing marginalization within the Civil Rights and Feminist movement. Society is less familiar with this reality because history is often told from a male standpoint. Nevline Nnaji is a multidisciplinary artist that has tried to challenge this issue by making a documentary about Black women being unrepresented in the movements they were fighting for. Nnaji encourages Black women everywhere to speak up and tell their stories via her documentary since it is critical to break the silence.
Nevline Nnaji has used her voice to inspire black women across America. Through directing this outstanding documentary film, Nnaji has been able to utilize her platform by not only educating the general public, but also creating an open community for black women to discuss and unpack the decades-worth of political marginalization designed to suppress black women’s voices. Throughout the development process, Nnaji aspired to emphasize the challenges women of color sought to overcome by presenting her criticism regarding the dominant narrative of Civil Rights history from the black male perspective. In an interview with Nikki Giovanni from the documentary, Giovanni explains that black women are usually comprised in the term black when talking about discrimination. “I don’t know that I have ever faced discrimination, as a woman, as yet, and I think that’s because the racial situation in America makes most black women face discrimination as black” (Richardson, 2013).
By solely uplifting and focusing on black women’s voices to express their views and contributions, Nnaji’s documentary triumphantly accomplishes promoting the Black feminist movement. She encourages the distinctiveness of each black woman’s viewpoint, hence sharing their experience is extremely important as it can inspire and educate others. Nnaji, herself, has been inspired by Elaine Brown to make the documentary. While reading about the sexism Brown experienced within the Black Panther Party from her memoir, “A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story”, Nnaji resolves that she must do something about it. “I thought the Black Power movement was supposed to be empowering for all people,” Nnaji said. “Reading all those things made me want to do a film about discrimination against Black women” (Brown, 2013). The documentary serves to remind black women that their true power lies in their identity, in the fact that they themselves are black women and not in their ideologies of change or militant dreams.
Nevline Nnaji’s determination to correct something that society has gotten wrong is why she is important to us today. She is a beacon of inspiration for black women everywhere through her documentary, which motivates them to use their own voices. Her strong drive and relentless dedication to empower black women has modeled the way for the next generation.
BFC/A. “Reflections Unheard: BFC/A Interview with Nevline Nnaji.” Black Film Center/Archive Blog, The Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University, 9 Apr. 2016, blackfilmcenterarchive.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/reflections-unheard-bfca-interview-with-nevline-nnaji/.
Jr., Michael T. Barry. “‘Reflections Unheard’: A New Film on Black Women and Civil Rights.” AAIHS, AAIHS, 15 Mar. 2017, www.aaihs.org/reflections-unheard-a-new-film-on-black-women-and-civil-rights/.
BROWN, COURTENAY. “Film Spotlights ‘Unheard’ Voices in Civil Rights Movement.” New York Amsterdam News, vol. 104, no. 25, 20 June 2013, p. 18. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=asn&AN=102758463&authtype=sso&custid=s3915890&site=eds-live&scope=site.
“About.” Reflections Unheard: Black Women in Civil Rights, 5 July 2018, reflectionsunheardfilm.com/about/.
Richardson, Judy, et al. Reflections Unheard : Black Women in Civil Rights. Women Make Movies, 2013. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat05812a&AN=mil.997588922203569&authtype=sso&custid=s3915890&site=eds-live&scope=site