Forget the idea that Black cinema primarily depicts a singular set of storylines and themes centered on shared trauma, says screenwriter Maya Cade, who spent a year cataloging more than 250 currently streaming Black films from between 1915 and 1979. Her effort to make that rich history easily accessible culminated in the launch of the Black Film Archive last week. From silent films to horror flicks to blockbuster comedies and romance, Black cinema spans ever-expanding genres and generations, now archived on her site.
In her introductory note, Cade writes that the films in the archive “have something significant to say about the Black experience; speak to Black audiences; and/or have a Black star, writer, producer, or director.” The intentionally broad criteria is an attempt to expand the ways Black films are framed. “I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that the act of making Black film history accessible is the act of transforming collective memory,” Cade told me. “To intentionally preserve is to remember, and to remember is to reimagine what the future can hold. Here, the films can be many things, and among those things are being remembered, treasured, and seen.”
Beyond archiving, Cade is also one of the vanishingly few people to use Twitter to spread joy, bringing snippets of cultural history—and countless gems from cinema as a whole—to her followers’ feeds every day. She’ll continue updating the archive monthly and maintaining a supplemental newsletter. Explore the rich range of Black film: If you find yourself with an hour to spare, pick a movie and start streaming.