With the Foundation for the Augmentation of African-Americans in Film’s (FAAAF) Black Reel Award nomination announcement earlier this week, the clock is ticking to find out which of this year’s film will join the ilustrious gallery of past Outstanding Picture winners. Before we crown this year’s winner, we take a look back at the “Sweet 16” that have won our organization’s top film honor.
While the Black Reel Awards were officially launched in 2000, the seed for awards were planted several years earlier. In 1993, the precursor for the Black Reels, The Oscar Micheaux Awards were conducted by Tim Gordon in the film newsletter, The Renaissance Review. Comprised of six categories, the big winner that year was Malcolm X, which took home five awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Denzel Washington, Best Supporting Actor for Delroy Lindo, Best Supporting Actress for Angela Bassett, and Best Director for Spike Lee.
It would take seven years, but Gordon fulfilled a dream to create an awards vehicle to celebrate and honor Black film achievement. Over the past 15 years, the Black Reel Awards have nominated over a thousand films and performances and awarded close to 200 awards of the best, annually.
Below is a list of the “Sweet 16” Outstanding Film Winners
The Hurricane (2000)
Denzel Washington won the first of his record SIX Black Reel Awards for this story of former middleweight boxer, Ruben “Hurricane” Carter, who was convicted for a triple homicide in a bar in Paterson, New Jersey. The film also depicts his life in prison and how he was freed by the love and compassion of a teenager from Brooklyn named Lesra Martin and his Canadian foster family.
Love and Basketball (2001)
Director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s story of two next-door neighbors who bond and fall in love over their love of hoops captured top film honors and the chemistry between its two stars, Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan, along with an amazing soundtrack, scored big points taking home six Black Reel Awards, including Outstanding Actress for Lathan and Outstanding Director for Prince-Bythewood.
Training Day (2002)
The gritty story of a seasoned LAPD narcotics detective and his rookie protege’s journey over a 24-hour period in South Central Los Angeles, powered this film to top honors and returned Denzel Washington to the winner’s circle. His dynamic performance was one of four awards that the film won, including Outstanding Actor for Washington, Outstanding Director for Antoine Fuqua.
Antwone Fisher (2003)
After winning three consectutive Outstanding Actor trophies, Denzel Washington made his directorial debut with the story of a troubled Navy seaman (newcomer Derek Luke), who with the help of a psychiatrist (played by Washington) overcomes his rocky background. The film won five Black Reel Awards, including Outstanding Film, Outstanding Director for Washington, Outstanding Screenplay for the actual Antwone Fisher and two awards for Luke (Outstanding Breakthrough and Outstanding Actor).
Out of Time (2004)
Another year, another performance in an award-winning from Denzel Washington in director Carl Franklin’s story of a Florida police chief must solve a vicious double homicide before he himself falls under suspicion. The love triangle co-starring Sanaa Lathan and Eva Mendes, won two Black Reel Awards, including Outstanding Film and Outstanding Actress for Lathan.
The biopic of celebrated rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles’ journey of 30 years in the life gave Jamie Foxx the role of a lifetime. The film won five awards including Outstanding Film, two wins for Sharon Warren (Outstanding Supporting Actress and Outstanding Breakthrough) as well as Outstanding Actor for Foxx. He also became the second actor to sweep five other major awards, including The Academy Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTA and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Lightning in a Bottle (2005)
The first and only Musical/Comedy Black Reel Award was given to this documentary on the blues, shot at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, from director Antoine Fuqua. Featuring an all-star group of musicians, including B.B. King, Robert Cray, India Arie, Aerosmith, Chuck D and others.
The ensemble film about racial and social tensions in Los Angeles, California, won three Black Reel Awards, including Outstanding Picture, Outstanding Actor Supporting Actor (Terrence Howard) and Outstanding Ensemble. Inspired by a real-life incident, in which his Porsche was carjacked outside a video store on Wilshire Boulevard in 1991, the film was described as a “passion piece” for director Paul Haggis.
The glitzy biopic of the history of the Motown record label and one of its acts, The Supremes, swept its way to six Black Reel Awards. Beside Outstanding Film, Jennifer Hudson took home two awards (Outstanding Supporting Actress and Outstanding Breakthrough Performance). The film also won all the major musical categories (Outstanding Score, Outstanding Song and Outstanding Soundtrack) as well.
No Awards (2008)
The only year that no awards were presented gave the organization several memorable films that the Foundation didn’t have an opportunity to acknowledge, including American Gangster, The Great Debaters, This Christmas, Talk To Me, The Perfect Holiday, I Am Legend, Things We Lost in the Fire, The Kingdom, Why Did I Get Married, Pride, Daddy’s Litte Girls and Black Snake Moan.
Cadillac Records (2009)
Three Black Reel Awards went to this story that explored the musical era from the early 1940s to the late 1960s, chronicling the life of the influential Chicago-based record-company executive Leonard Chess, and a few of the musicians who recorded for Chess Records. In addition to Outstanding Film, it also took home Outstanding Supporting Actor for Jeffrey Wright and Outstanding Soundtrack.
The story of an overweight, abused, illiterate teen (Gabourey Sidibe) who is pregnant with her second child and is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction won a record-breaking seven Black Reel Awards. In addition to taking home Outstanding Film, the movie garnered two wins for newcomer Sidibe (Outstanding Actress and Breakthrough Performance), Outstanding Supporting Actress (Mo’Nique), Outstanding Screenplay (Geoffrey Fletcher) and Outstanding Director for Lee Daniels.
Night Catches Us (2011)
Writer/director Tanya Hamilton’s story of complex political and emotional forces that are set in motion when a young man (Anthony Mackie) returns to the race-torn Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age during the Black Power movement won Five Black Reel Awards including, Outstanding Picture, awards for both leads (Mackie for Oustanding Actor and Kerry Washington for Outstanding Actress), Outstanding Screenplay for Hamilton and The Roots took home Outstanding Score.
The Help (2012)
Six Black Reel Awards went to this story of a young white woman, Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone), and her relationship with two black maids, Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer), during the Civil Rights era in 1963 Jackson, Mississippi. The film won Outstanding Film, plus Outstanding Actress and Supporting Actress for Davis and Spencer. In addition, it won Outstanding Song for Mary J. Blige, Outstanding Score and Outstanding Ensemble.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2013)
Faced with both her hot-tempered father’s (Dwight Henry) fading health and melting ice-caps that flood her ramshackle bayou community and unleash ancient aurochs, six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) must learn the ways of courage and love. The film won four awards, including Outstanding Film, two awards for newcomer Wallis (Outstanding Actress and Breakthrough Performance), as well as Outstanding Score for Dan Romer and director Behn Zeitlin.
12 Years A Slave (2014)
Steve McQueen’s riveting story of a New York State-born free African-American man, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., in 1841 and sold into slavery, swept the Black Reel Awards taking home eight trophies. In addition to Outstanding Picture, the film’s honorees included Ejiofor (Outstanding Actor), two for newcomer Lupita Nyong’o (Oustanding Supporting Actress and Breakthrough Performance, Female), Outstanding Director (McQueen) and Outstanding Screenplay (John Ridley), Outstanding Score and Outstanding Ensemble.
The Civil Right’s Movement comes alive for the current generation in writer/director Ava DuVernay’s stunning work based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by James Bevel, Hosea Williams, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John Lewis. The film won eight Black Reel Awards including, Oustanding Film, three of the four major acting awards (David Oyelowo, Wendell Pierce and Carmen Ejogo for Oustanding Actor, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress), Outstanding Director for DuVernay, Outstanding Score, Outstanding Song (“Glory”) and Outstanding Ensemble.