No other African American filmmaker has made an impact in the film business this decade like Perry. Bringing his theatrical character Madea Simmons to the big screen has proven very successful at the box office. From 'Diary of a Mad Black Woman' to 'Madea's Family Reunion' to 'Why Did I Get Married?,' which featured the return of Janet Jackson to the big screen, Perry's films have grossed close to $300 million in four years. And having Oprah Winfrey as one of his biggest champions hasn't hurt things either. Perry and that talk-show diva will join forces in bringing Lee Daniels' critically acclaimed movie, 'Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire,' to the masses later this year.
Besides Woody Allen, no other filmmaker has had more films on the big screen in the last 20 years than Lee. From 'She's Gotta Have It' to 'Jungle Fever' to the critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated 'Do The Right Thing,' Lee's production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, has produced more than 35 films since 1983. In 2008, the Atlanta native released his latest film, 'Miracle at St. Anna,' a story about blacks fighting in WWII that stars Derek Luke and Michael Ealy.
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As the pioneer of African American filmmakers, this Metropolis, Illinois, native revolutionized the film industry when he formed his own movie production company and, in 1919, became the first African American to make a film. He wrote, directed and produced the silent motion picture 'The Homesteader' and then introduced the film world to Paul Robeson in 'Body and Soul.' In 1986, the Directors Guild of America honored Micheaux with a Golden Jubilee Special Award, and today the Oscar Micheaux Award is presented each year by the Producers Guild.
Primarily known as a comedian, this Chicago native established himself when he wrote, directed, produced and starred in the comedy 'Hollywood Shuffle,' his 1987 film about struggling black actors. He also created and produced the CableACE award–winning 'Robert Townsend and His Partners in Crime' for HBO. His best film to date is the 1991 musical 'The Five Heartbeats.' Townsend recently directed the documentary 'Why We Laugh,' a story on black comedians and their impact in America.
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Known for his imposing 6-foot-6-inch figure and action films such as 1987's 'Predator,' the Poughkeepsie, New York, native began directing feature-length films in the 1990s with the crime dramas 'A Rage in Harlem,' 'Deep Cover' and 'Hoodlum.' In 2007, Duke directed 'Cover,' which starred Vivica A. Fox, and most recently 'Not Easily Broken,' which is based on a T.D Jakes novel and stars Morris Chestnut and Taraji P. Henson.
As a pioneer in the film business and a legend in the African American community, Davis was an actor, director, poet, playwright, writer and social activist whose career spanned nearly 50 years. Davis directed numerous films during the blaxploitation era, including 1970's 'Cotton Comes to Harlem' and 1973's 'Gordon's War.' Along with wife Ruby Dee, the Georgia native starred in many movies, including several of director Spike Lee's films such as 'Do The Right Thing,' 'Jungle Fever' and 'She Hate Me.'
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Melvin Van Peebles
This Chicago actor, director, screenwriter, playwright, novelist and composer is most famously known for his contribution to the blaxploitation era with the independently financed and critically acclaimed film 'Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song.' The 1971 film was written, produced, scored, directed by and starred Van Peebles and tells the story of a deprived African American man on his escape from the white authority. The father of actor/ director Mario, in 2008, Melvin completed the film 'Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha,' which played at various film festivals.
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In 1991, this Queens, New York, native's film 'Daughters of the Dust,' which tells the story of three generations of Gullah women at the turn of the 20th century, was the first full-length film with general theatrical release in the United States by an African American woman. In 2004, the film was included in the National Film Registry.
F. Gary Gray
Having directed more than 30 music videos for artists such as Ice Cube, Queen Latifah, TLC, Dr. Dre and Mary J. Blige, and winning several awards for his work, the New York native moved into the film world with the cult favorite 'Friday,' starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker. He then followed that film with another fan favorite, 'Set It Off,' with Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox and Jada Pinkett Smith, before moving on to big budgeted films such as 'The Negotiator,' 'The Italian Job' and 'Be Cool.' His next feature is slated to be 'Marvin: The Life Story of Marvin Gaye.'
An Academy Award winner for his performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 2006 film 'The Last King of Scotland', the Longview, Texas, native has directed many films, including the fan favorite 1995's 'Waiting to Exhale,' based on the Terry McMillan novel of the same name. Other directorial films from Whitaker include 'Hope Floats' and 'First Daughter.'
Matt Sayles, AP