Neema Barnette

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Neema Barnette
Born (1949-12-14) December 14, 1949 (age 70)
New York City, United States
OccupationDirector, producer
Years active1982–present
Spouse(s)Reed R. McCants (1 child)

Neema Barnette is an American film director,[1][2] and the first African-American woman to direct a primetime sitcom.[3] Barnette was the first African-American woman to get a three-picture deal with Sony.[4] Since then, she accumulated a number of awards, including a Peabody, an Emmy and NAACP Image Award[5].


In 1990, she founded Harlem Girl Productions Corporation. Since 1997, Barnette has also worked for the Harlem Lite Productions. She has directed multiple seasons and episodes of a variety of television sitcoms including A Different World, The Cosby Show, Gilmore Girls, and 7th Heaven.

Barnette has directed stage, episodic television, made for TV movies and feature films. Sky Captain was her first short film which she directed as part of the American Film Institute's (AFI) Directing Workshop for Women in 1985.[6] Her 2003 film Civil Brand is a low-budget feature on women in prison who stage an uprising to protest their treatment.[2] Her 1997 film, Spirit Lost, is a psychological thriller with a love triangle that includes a ghost.[1][7]

In 2002, she was selected as one of ten artists to judge the American Film Institute's "Best Films Award".[8]

In 2003, Barnette directed her first feature film, an adaptation of Civil Brand, she told the LA Times it was inspired by the original screenplay by Preston A Whitmore II[9].

Her most recent feature film is Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day (2012), her 11th movie and third for theatrical release.[10] The film is a thriller and family drama following the story of a marriage on the rocks,[11] which received an NAACP Image Award Nomination for Best Independent Feature in 2012.[12] Barnette directed two episodes of Being Mary Jane: "Hot Seat" and "Don't Call It A Comeback" (2015 - Season 3).[13][14] Barnette is the Executive Producer of Black History Mini Docs, 90 second videos featuring the stories of African-American heroes and she-roes, as well as daily tributes which are posted on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest.[12]

She has won numerous awards, honors, and nominations, among them an Emmy Award for her afterschool special To Be a Man,[15] two NAACP Image Awards, and a Sundance Film Festival Award.[16]

In 2003, at the age of 25, the veteran director released her first feature film “Civil Brand.” A story inspired by an urban women’s prison tale. Even after her mother passed, she encouraged Barnette to continue pursuing the film. Once the movie was completed, it earned many awards and played film festivals like Sundance, the American Film Institute, and the American Black Film Festival in Miami where “Civil Brand” won the $15,000 Blockbuster audience award.[17]

In 2009 Barnette directed a gospel musical film, "Heaven Ain't Hard to Find," starring Kim Whitley, Cliff Powell and Reed McCants, where it previewed on platforms on HBO and BET.

Barnette won her first NAACP Image® Award for her directing efforts, like "One More Hurdle," an NBC dramatic special. Another documentary of hers titled "The Silent Crime," an NBC about domestic violence, received four local Emmy® nominations. 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."[18]

Neema Barnette is also part of the  DGA African American Steering Committee and a member of The Black Filmmakers Foundation since its inception. She is also an active AFI alumnus and takes part on the panel of the AFI Independent Film committee. She  has also played a part in being on the executive board of the IFP Gordon Parks Scholarship fund. She’s been a judge for the NAACP Feature Film Award and serves as an annual judge for the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Barnette owns her own production company called Harlem Girl Productions, whilst also owning a production company titled Reel Rebel Productions with her husband Reed McCants. Notably, she is also the Executive Director of a theatre and performance company for young artists titled Live Theatre Gang[19]. Barnette is also a part-time teacher, where she teaches aspiring students a directing course at UCLA and USC. She spends the other part of her time running a theatre company titled Live Theatre Gang with her husband and actor, Reed R. McCants.


Films Directed[edit]

  • Super Sweet 16: The Movie (2007)
  • All You've Got (2005)
  • Zora Is My Name!
  • Better Off Dead
  • Run for the Dream: The Gail Devers Story
  • Close to Danger
  • Spirit Lost
  • Woman Thou Art Loose: On the 7th Day
  • Heaven Ain't Hard to Find
  • Better off Dead[20][21]

Television Directed[edit]

  • Black Lightning 2019
  • Raising Dion 2019
  • Midnight, Texas 2018
  • The Good Cop 2018
  • Love is _ 2018[22]
  • Luke Cage 2018[23]
  • Blind Spot 2018 [24]
  • The Breaks 2017[25]
  • Being Mary Jane 2015-2017[26][27]
  • Queen Sugar 2016
  • Miracle's Boys 2005
  • Gilmore Girls[28]
  • The PJs [29]
  • Diagnosis Murder 1994-1998
  • 7th Heaven[30]
  • Deadly Games 1996[31]
  • The Cosby Mysteries 1994-1995
  • The Sinbad Show 1993
  • The Royal Family 1991
  • Different Worlds: A Story of Interracial Love
  • The Cosby Show 1989-1991
  • A Different World 1990-1991
  • Zora Is My Name! 1990
  • China Beach 1990
  • The Robert Guillaume Show 1989[32]
  • It’s Living 1988-1989[33]
  • Hooperman 1989
  • Frank's Place 1987
  • What's Happening Now 1986
  • One More Hurdle (1984)


  • King of Stage: The Woodie King Jr. Story (Documentary) (executive producer)
  • 2016 Queen Sugar (TV Series) (producer - 13 episodes)
  • 2012 Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day (producer)
  • 2008 Cuttin Da Mustard (executive producer) / (producer)
  • 2002 Civil Brand (producer) [34]


  • TO BE A MAN for ABC Television, for which she won her first Emmy Award.
  • The Silent Crime, an American Women in Radio & Television award for directing.
  • Barnette won an International Monitor Award for Best Director for The Cosby Show episode, 'The Day the Spores Landed.'
  • ZORA IS MY NAME (American Playhouse production starring Ruby Dee which won a Lilly Award for Exceptional Representation of African American Images in Film)
  • One More Hurdle,” an NBC dramatic special, won Neema her first NAACP Image® Award for her directing efforts.
  • While directing an episode for Cosby in which Mr. Cosby gets pregnant, “The Day The Spores Landed” (International Monitor® Award for Best Director)
  • The Delta Society awarded Neema their prestigious Lilly® Award for exceptional representation of African American images in film.
  • The Cosby Mysteries. “ For one episode she directed the show received a Peabody® and Emmy® Award.
1993 Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Shows - Daytime American Black Film Festival CBS Schoolbreak Special (1984)

For episode "Different Worlds: A Story of Interracial Love




Special Jury Prize

Audience Award

Urbanworld Film Festival Civil Brand Winner


Blockbuster Audience Award The Black American Film Festival Civil Brand Winner


Audience Award

Official Selection Filin

Roxbury Black Film Festival n.[21]

Philadelphia Film Festival

Civil Brand Winner


Festival Award

Sojourner Truth Award

Pan-African Film Festival Civil Brand Winner


Best Director - Television Black Reel Awards Miracle's Boys Winner
2017 Trailblazer Reel Sistas of the Diaspora

NY Women in Film

Herself Nominee


  1. ^ a b Thomas, Kevin (August 29, 2003). "Civil Brand". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 15, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Scott, A. O. (October 10, 2003). "FILM REVIEW; Tough Women in the Pen Decide to Get Tougher". New York Times. Retrieved November 15, 2009.
  3. ^ Randle, Nancy (January 12, 1993). "Tackling issues Steinem's behind-the-scenes efforts give life to 'Better Off Dead'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 15, 2009. Barnette-the first black woman to direct a primetime sitcom
  4. ^ Lundberg, Bengt (August 4, 2016). "Museologi som vetenskapligt fält". Nordisk Museologi. 0 (2): 39. doi:10.5617/nm.3563. ISSN 2002-0503.
  5. ^ O'Falt, Chris; O'Falt, Chris (September 14, 2016). "'Queen Sugar': Director Neema Barnette is Ava Duvernay's Secret Weapon In Shattering the Glass Ceiling". IndieWire. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  6. ^ Gregory, Mollie (August 24, 2002). Women Who Run the Show: How a Brilliant and Creative New Generation of Women Stormed Hollywood. Macmillan. ISBN 9780312301828.
  7. ^ McClain, Shonda (June 10, 1995). "'Spirit Lost' a low-down psychological thriller". Indianapolis Recorder. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012. Retrieved November 15, 2009. 'Spirit Lost' is the story of a 'brother' who is caught between two women, one of whom happens to be a ghost. Directed by Neema Barnette, [...]
  8. ^ Women in the Arts & Media Coalition
  9. ^ "A story that couldn't stay locked up". Los Angeles Times. August 25, 2003. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  10. ^ "Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day: Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  11. ^ "Woman-Thou-Art-Loosed-On-the-7th-Day - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes -". Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  12. ^ a b "About BHMD". Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  13. ^ Neema. "Barnette".
  14. ^ "Being Mary Jane Season 3". Season Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  15. ^ Chideya, Farai (October 19, 2007). "Honoring Black Female Filmmakers". National Public Radio. Retrieved November 15, 2009.
  16. ^ "Sundance Institute". Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  17. ^ "A story that couldn't stay locked up". Los Angeles Times. August 25, 2003. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  18. ^ Knight, Jenny (January 5, 2000). "For the record". Nursing Standard. 14 (16): 20–22. doi:10.7748/ns.14.16.20.s39. ISSN 0029-6570. PMID 11209431.
  19. ^ "Biography - Neema Barnette". Friday Moviez. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  20. ^ Gregory, Mollie (2002). Women Who Run the Show: How a Brilliant and Creative New Generation of Women Stormed. MacMillan. p. 423. ISBN 9780312316341. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  21. ^ a b "School of Theater, Film and Television". TFT UCLA EDU. UCLA. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  22. ^ Rose (Going Home), retrieved March 13, 2019
  23. ^ If It Ain't Rough, It Ain't Right, retrieved March 13, 2019
  24. ^ Clamorous Night, retrieved March 13, 2019
  25. ^ Clamorous Night, retrieved March 13, 2019
  26. ^ Gregory, Mollie (2002). Women Who Run the Show: How a Brilliant and Creative New Generation of Women Stormed. MacMillan. p. 423. ISBN 9780312316341. Retrieved December 13, 2015.[verification needed]
  27. ^ "School of Theater, Film and Television". TFT UCLA EDU. UCLA. Retrieved December 13, 2015.[verification needed]
  28. ^ The Fundamental Things Apply, retrieved March 13, 2019
  29. ^ Haiti and the Tramp, retrieved March 13, 2019
  30. ^ Rush to Judgment, retrieved March 13, 2019
  31. ^ The Trash Man, retrieved March 13, 2019
  32. ^ Together Again, retrieved March 13, 2019
  33. ^ It's a Living (TV Series 1980–1989) - IMDb, retrieved March 13, 2019
  34. ^ "Neema Barnette". IMDb. Retrieved March 13, 2019.

External links[edit]