In 2018, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Academy Film Archive, which houses the most diverse and extensive motion picture collections in the world, will acquire the films of pioneering African American filmmaker Ayoka Chenzira.

Chenzira’s work joins an impressive body of personal collections that includes the work of such iconic and diverse filmmakers as as Alfred Hitchcock, Tacita Dean, Margaret Honda, Gus Van Sant, Cecil B. DeMille, Barbara Hammer, George Stevens, Cauleen Smith, Penelope Spheeris, Fred Zinnemann, Sam Peckinpah, and Jim Jarmusch. To date, the archive’s collection includes an extensive collection of 85,000 titles and 190,000 associated cinema items that include early American cinema and Academy Award winning and nominated films, documentary projects, filmed and taped interviews, amateur and private home movies of Hollywood legends, makeup and sound test reels, and a vast collection of experimental film, and a complete collection of every Academy Awards show since 1949.

Chenzira is perhaps best known for creating experimental films that challenge pervasive and harmful Black stereotypes and marginality. “I am always experimenting with the moving image and considering new approaches to storytelling. This interest has taken various forms: creating an animated film that combines traditional cell animation with applications for Apple’s first desktop computer, embedding motion pictures into sculptural forms, or interactive cinema that combine the moving image with computer programming and is projected on to a building. However, these and other explorations are connected to my desire to centralize the voices of African American women, an audience whose stories I first heard and fell in love with in my mother’s beauty parlor,” she says.

In February 2018, Chenzira also re-released her iconic collection of the Black Indie Classics (Volume I) for a broader film watching public. The Black Indie Classics set contains four of Ayoka’s early critically acclaimed and award-winning films including one of the first 35mm features to be written, directed and produced by an African American female filmmaker, Alma’s Rainbow (1993), a coming-of-age comedy-drama about a young Black girl growing up in Brooklyn, and satire short Hair Piece: A Film for Nappyheaded People (1984), that taps into how identities are mediated, the politics of the natural hair movement, and growing up Black in urban America. Aside from her boxset, and the Academy Film Archive, Chenzira’s work is also already available for viewing in a number of museum collections across the country such as the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art.

Given Chenzira’s lengthy and committed history to independent and experimental cinema, the accessibility of her work in the Academy Film Archive will now enable extended reach to new audiences and diverse generations interested in the preservation, documentation, exhibition and study of Black Independent film work – particularly that which was produced by female artists. In these times when it has become increasingly important to create space and acknowledgement of women’s contributions to the film industry and its creative canon, the Academy Film Archive’s decision to acquire the work of Ayoka Chenzira is a step in the right direction.

Currently, Chenzira is a professor at Spelman College where she is the Division Chair of the Arts. She recently directed a season three episode of Ava DuVernay’s Queen Sugar for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network.

Ayoka Chenzira of AYOmentary Productions is a filmmaker, digital media artist and transmedia storyteller who has been producing work since the later 1970’s.


To learn more about Ayoka Chenzira and her body of work, visit her website at

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