1990s Black and Indigenous Coming-of-Age Stories Added to National Film Registry

By Sameer Rao Dec 12, 2018

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden took to her employer’s Twitter page today (December 12) to announce the 25 films she added to the National Film Registry (NFR) in 2018. 

Hayden notes in the video that she and the Library of Congress (LOC) select films "deemed culturally, historically and aesthetically significant" for preservation each year. She adds on LOC.gov that the 2018 class coincides with the NFR’s 30th anniversary. 

The list includes several films by and/or about people of color that address past and present issues around racial justice and identity. Here are just few, with details based on the LOC’s descriptions:

"Eve’s Bayou" (1997). Writer and director Kasi Lemmons‘ debut narrative feature follows a 10-year-old girl’s fall from innocence as she navigates her family’s dissolution, supernatural abilities and the community’s cultural mores in 1960s Louisiana. “As a Black woman filmmaker, it is particularly meaningful to me, and to future generations of filmmakers, that the Library of Congress values diversity of culture, perspective and expression in American cinema and recognizes ‘Eve’s Bayou’ as worthy of preservation," Lemmons says in the LOC’s announcement.

"Smoke Signals" (1998). The LOC describes Chris Eyre‘s first film as likely "the first feature film written, directed and produced by Native Americans." Two Indigenous friends explore their differing concepts of ethnic and familial identity while driving from their Idaho reservation to Arizona, where they must retrieve one of the travelers’ abusive father’s ashes.

"Bad Day at Black Rock" (1945). A White visitor with one arm shakes up a closed-off desert town when he goes looking for a Japanese-American resident interned during World War II. 

"Dixon-Wanamaker Expedition to Crow Agency" (1908). This is the only known surviving footage from a retail magnate’s sponsored trip to the Crow peoples’ land. The film includes shots of a girls’ mission school, a Crow fair, a reenactment of the Battle of Little Big Horn and other testaments to Indigenous tribes’ survival under a genocidal regime.  

"Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People" (1984). Pioneering Black woman animator Ayoka Chenzira‘s short film explores the techniques, culture and social context surrounding hair care for Black women. 

Turner Classic Movies will air a selection of these films at 8 p.m. EST tonight. See clips from the inducted projects in the LOC’s tweet (above).