Twenty years ago today, Eve's Bayou arrived in theaters. Starring Lynn Whitefield, Samuel L. Jackson, Diahann Carroll, Debbi Morgan, Jurnee Smollett and Meagan Good, the film was groundbreaking. Written and directed by Kasi Lemmons, the movie followed the summer of a Louisiana family told through the eyes of a 10-year-old. Critically acclaimed, the film is considered a classic and deserves the title. From the acting to the writing to the directing, the movie was ahead of its time.
On the twentieth anniversary of the film, we highlight why the film is still powerful twenty years later.
Before Ava DuVernay and Dee Rees were slaying the game, Kasi Lemmons was one of very few Black women writer/directors. Back in 2008, Lemmons said, "I took a bunch of meetings that were a little bit frightening to me and I started to realize that I'd written a very delicate piece of material that could be misinterpreted very easily." She continued, "My producer kept saying, 'What's a sexy idea of a director? Who's sexy?' And I was thinking, 'Who's sexy? Who's sexy?' Literally I woke up on my birthday and it was an epiphany. I was like, 'You know what? I'm going to direct it.'" That is what you call a boss move!
Eve's Bayou was third credited movie role for Megan Good, who was only 16 at that time, and her performance as Cisely Batiste was incredible. Twenty years later, she has starred in countless films, from to Deliver Us From Eva to Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
The 11-year-old gave a dynamic performance as Eve Batiste, which earned her the Best Child Performance at the 1998 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards. Jurnee has been conquering film and television for years, from The Great Debaters in 2007 to this year's Underground.
In 2008, Time included Eve's Bayou on their list of "The 25 Most Important Films on Race," which is fitting. The film tackled race, gender and class in a way that very few films had done up until that time. Watch and learn!
If you don't know Debbi Morgan's work, then you are seriously missing out on life. She is a pitch-perfect actress and the monologue above is arguably one of the greatest performances delivered on screen. Subtle, strong and unforgettable.
Although Samuel L. Jackson had been acting for years, Eve's Bayou was the first film he ever produced. The actor's touch on the movie helped to catapult the film to classic status!
The greatest film critic of all time named Eve's Bayou the best film of 1997. He famously called the movie "elegant, sensuous, haunting." Well said, Roger!
If there would have been social media in 1997, this would've went viral. One of the most critically acclaimed films of that year, the movie was shockingly snubbed, receiving bot one single nomination. This outraged many people but there was nowhere to vent. Therefore, we must revisit the film being that the Oscars didn't have the smarts to acknowledge its brilliance 20 years ago.
Often when we see Black characters in the South, they are downtrodden and broken. In Eve's Bayou, the beauty of Black southern culture is highlighted, adding nuance to the diversity of the Black experience.
Eve's Bayou was a step forward in Black writers and directors making their own work. The Kasi Lemmons film paved the way for many Black creatives. Bow down to the legend!