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Zeinabu irene Davis

Zeinabu Irene Davis is a director and producer who has received numerous awards for her work with film and video. Born in 1961 in Philadelphia, she received a M.A. in African Studies in 1985 at UCLA, where she also earned her M.F.A. in Film and Television production in 1989. She has received acclaim for her representation of the African American female perspective through a variety of works, which include documentaries, short narratives and experimental films.

Davis directed the film Cycles (1989), an experimental short which earned her an awards from the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and the National Black Programming Consortium. Her following works, A Period Piece (1991), A Powerful Thang (1991), Mother of a River (1995) and Compensation (1999) continued to garner her awards from numerous organizations and festivals, including the Gordan Parks Award for Best Director from the Independent Feature Project. Her latest project, Spirits of Rebellion (2011), is a documentary work-in-progress which gathers fellow L.A. Rebellion filmmakers and explores topics in African American film.

Davis has been awarded grants and fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Film Institute and the National Endowment for the Arts for her film work. After holding teaching positions at Antioch College and Northwestern University, Davis moved to teach at UC San Diego, where she currently serves as Professor of Communications.

Date of birth: 
Thursday, April 13, 1961
Birthplace: 
Philadelphia, PA
Education: 
UCLA, M.A., African Studies 1985; M.F.A. Film & Television Production, 1989

Filmography

Film Role(s) Year
DEFINE (1988) DEFINE

O.Funmilayo Makarah's oblique meditation on the semiotics of ethnic female identity accompanies a cynical narration about how to “win an invitation to the dominant culture.”

Crew 1988
Cycles (1989) Cycles

As a woman anxiously awaits her overdue period, she performs African-based rituals of purification in this short by Zeinabu irene Davis.

Director
Producer
Editor
Cast
1989
Trumpetistically, Clora Bryant (1989) Trumpetistically, Clora Bryant

Zeinabu irene Davis' fond portrait, rich with tunes and anecdotes of pioneering female jazz trumpeter Clora Bryant, a proponent of West Coast jazz whose early stints with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm led eventually to collaborations with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, among others.

Director
Producer
Writer
1989
A Period Piece (1991) A Period Piece

In a comic rap, Zeinabu irene Davis lampoons the false promises in ads for feminine hygiene products.

Director
Producer
Writer
Editor
Cast
1991
Film reel Mother of the River

Zeinabu irene Davis begins her film with a Yoruba proverb from Nigeria: “Riddles are the horses of discourse.” In this film, Dofimae is a young girl living in slavery who learns about the world through riddles told by her father. She meets and cares for an old shaman who calls herself Mother of the River, and who promises Dofimae to take her and her father up North someday. 

 

Director
Producer
1995
Compensation (1999) Compensation

In two Chicago love stories, set a century apart, a deaf woman and a hearing man face the specter of death in director Zeinabu irene Davis' feature debut. They also confront intraracial differences across lines of gender, class, education and ability. Through innovative use of sign language and title cards evoking the silent film era, Compensation is accessible to deaf and hearing audiences.

Director
Producer
Editor
1999
Momentum: A Conversation With Black Women on Achieving Advanced Degrees (2010) Momentum: A Conversation With Black Women on Achieving Advanced Degrees

Filmmaker Zeinabu irene Davis looks at the accomplishments of a cohort of students at the University of California San Diego. With Jukiana (Jules) Smith, Erin Malone, Dr. Edwina Welch, Dr. Monika Gosin, and Dr. Patricia G. Davis.

Director
Producer
Writer
Cinematographer
2010
Co-Motion: Tales of Breastfeeding Women (2010) Co-Motion: Tales of Breastfeeding Women

Zeinabu irene Davis explores contemporary views of breastfeeding through interviews with mothers, fathers and professionals in the field.

 

Director
Producer
Writer
2010
Spirits of Rebellion: Black Film at UCLA (2011) Spirits of Rebellion: Black Cinema from UCLA

This documentary by Zeinabu irene Davis provides intimate access to several filmmakers identified with L.A. Rebellion, including Charles Burnett, Ben Caldwell, Julie Dash, Haile Gerima, Barbara McCullough, Billy Woodberry and Davis herself. The film’s topics include the origins of the name “L.A. Rebellion” and the intriguing question, “What is a black film?”

Director
Producer
2015