Surveying the last 30 years of Sundance, there’s usually been at least one in-competition film with black leads. In 1992 and 1989, there was one black film in competition, while 1993 had two. But prior to 2020, there had never been more than five.
Black filmmakers saw a renaissance in the late ’80s and early ’90s, a period that introduced Spike Lee, Wendell B. Harris Jr, Robert Townsend, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Julie Dash, Matty Rich, the Hudlin Brothers, Leslie Harris, and others. Some of their films premiered and competed at Sundance, but even then they never composed a significant presence.
Between 1989 and 1993, a total of 10 films with black leads