Curator of Black History Mini Docs


Prominent and innovative director, writer, producer, Neema Barnette has engaged audiences with a body of compelling work that defies the narrow stereotypes of African Americans usually depicted in television and film. Barnette was the first Black woman to receive a 3 picture deal from a major studio in history (Columbia Pictures). Neema has directed over 60 hours of network television, 10 movies for television and 4 full length feature films.

A native New Yorker, Barnette attended the famous High School For The Performing Arts and began her career as a stage actress. Barnette started directing in theater at age 21, directing "The Blue Journey" by OyamO, at Joseph Papp's Public Theater. She won an Adelco Award for the first staging of the play “The Talented 10th” which opened at the Manhattan Theater Club.

Neema is the first African American woman in history to direct a sitcom, What’s Happening Now!! in 1986. Her successful debut resulted in subsequent directing stints on "Hooperman," "The Royal Family," "China Beach” (Peabody Award), "Frank's Place" (Emmy® Award), "The Sinbad Show”, "Diagnosis Murder," "A Different World" and many episodes of "The Cosby Show” (Monitor Award) and several movies for television, including “Better Off Dead”, “Scattered Dreams”, “Run for the Dream; The Gail Devers Story”.

In 2003, Barnette directed her first theatrical released feature film “Civil Brand”, which earned many awards and played film festivals such as Sundance, the American Film Institute, Urban World Film Fest and the American Black Film Festival in Miami where “Civil Brand” won the $15,000 Blockbuster audience award. Her second feature film Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day (2012) starring Blair Underwood was her 10th movie and third for theatrical release.

More recently, Barnette has turned her attention back to television directing some of the most popular television shows including, Being Mary Jane, Queen Sugar (as producer and Director), Genius: Aretha, Raising Dion, Luke Cage, Harlem, Reasonable Doubt and The Equalizer. Barnette is also a part-time educator, where she continues teaching aspiring directing students at UCLA and USC and her alma mater, The American Film Institute (AFI). 

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