2 Best Movies to Watch From Island Films

Staff & contributors

Spike Lee burst onto the filmmaking scene with this, his groundbreaking debut feature. Low in budget but high in confidence, She’s Gotta Have It fizzes with unadulterated energy and style, from its kaleidoscopic opening montage of stills depicting life in Brooklyn (where the film is set) to the joyous direct addresses of its credits sequence.

The film helped to kick off the independent movie movement in the US, and it’s not hard to see why: Lee and his collaborators (including members of his own family) do so much with so little here. Along with its visual and formal inventiveness — including ample fourth wall breaks and cinematographer Ernest Dickerson’s momentary, audacious switch from black-and-white to vibrant color — She’s Gotta Have It also broke new ground with Nola (Tracy Camilla Johns), the young, Black, unapologetically polyamorous artist whom the film’s forthright exploration of sexuality and feminism is centered on. Lee has since expressed regret about one scene in the film — an ill-judged moment that unavoidably dilutes some of its brilliance — but this aside, She’s Gotta Have It stands overall as a radical, exuberant, and impressively assertive lightning bolt of an entry into the medium that Lee changed forever.

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Bill Lee, Cheryl Burr, Eric Payne, Erik Dellums, Ernest R. Dickerson, Fab 5 Freddy, John Canada Terrell, Joie Lee, Monty Ross, Raye Dowell, Reginald Hudlin, S. Epatha Merkerson, Spike Lee, Tiziano Cortini, Tommy Redmond Hicks, Tracy Camilla Johns

Director: Spike Lee

Rating: R

, 2015

Shrooms director Paddy Breathnach has als dipped his toes in romcoms and thrillers, but this queer Bogota-set drama has a lot of tenderness in its heart. Micro-budget and full of life as the name suggests, Viva is an inspiring story that centers around Jesus (Héctor Medina) and his own individuation. A hairdresser with the talent of a drag performer, he assumes the role of Viva in the weekend cabaret. As warm and open as his father is detached and somber, Jesus is a likeable protagonist with the vulnerability and dedication to follow his dream, that no wonder the film made the Oscar shortlist in 2016.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Héctor Medina, Jorge Perugorría, Laura Aleman, Luis Alberto García, Luis Manuel Alvarez, Mark O'Halloran, Renata Maikel Machin Blanco

Director: Paddy Breathnach