Zeinabu Davis


Independent FilmmakerProfessor, UCSD, Communication Department



Zeinabu Irene Davis is an independent filmmaker and full Professor of Communication at University of California, San Diego. She is comfortable working in documentary, narrative and experimental genres. Zeinabu's work is passionately concerned with the depiction of women of African descent. A selection of her award-winning works includes a biographic documentary of a Los Angeles jazz legend, Trumpetistically Clora Bryant, (2005); drama about a young slave girl for both children and adults, Mother of the River (1996) and an experimental narrative exploring the psycho-spiritual journey of a woman with Cycles (1989). Her dramatic feature film entitled Compensation (1999) features two inter-related love stories that offer a view of Black Deaf culture. The film was selected for the dramatic competition at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival and was the winner of the Gordon Parks Award for Directing from the Independent Feature Project. 

Zeinabu's most recent feature documentary on the filmmakers of the LA Rebellion film movement, Spirits of Rebellion: Black Cinema from Los Angeles (2016) won 7 awards including the African Movie Academy Award and Best Feature Documentary & Audience Award from BlackStar. Zeinabu holds an undergraduate degree from Brown University, a MA in African Studies and an MFA from UCLA. She frequently writes articles on Black cinema, which have been published in Cineaste and Shadow & Act. She has also served as a panelist for the ITVS, the Illinois and Ohio Arts Councils and on the editorial committee for the POV series on PBS.

Active Projects

Without exploring and knowing the past, we can’t move toward the future. Exalted! (working title) is an hour-long experimental documentary using performance, re-enactment, interviews and visual documentation to reveal the lives, spirituality and resilience of three Black enslaved women during the 1700-1800s: Marie Joseph Angelique, Phillis Wheatley and Sojourner Truth. Each chose a form of spirituality that sustained them through the darkest times. What lessons do their lives teach us? Zeinabu is currently in the research and development stage on this project is looking for funding, collaborators and social media engagement support.

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