Kasi Lemmons

Director | Writer | Actress

Kasi Lemmons is an award-winning director, writer, actress, and professor who has been a staple in Hollywood for nearly three decades. Her acclaimed 1997 feature directorial debut, Eve’s Bayou, was recently inducted into the National Film Registry, and is considered among the first to showcase the beauty of African American Southern culture. The film received the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature, and the National Board of Review bestowed her with a special first-time director award. Eve’s Bayou marked Samuel L. Jackson’s debut as a film producer and helped launch the careers of actresses Megan Good and Jurnee Smollett.

Lemmons’ sophomore feature, The Caveman's Valentine, opened the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, while her third film, Talk to Me, earned the 2008 NAACP Image Award for outstanding directing. She also adapted Langston Hughes’ musical Black Nativity for the big screen in 2013.

Her 2019 opus, Harriet, is a deeply resonant and powerful drama based on the life of American icon Harriet Tubman. Starring Cynthia Erivo in the titular role, Harriet earned two Oscar nominations, two Golden Globe nominations, and ten NAACP Award nominations. In addition to her directing on Harriet, Lemmons most recently executive produced the Netflix limited series Self Made starring Octavia Spencer and directed two episodes. Self Made earned 3 NAACP Image Awards.

Her sixth film, I Wanna Dance With Somebody starring Naomie Ackie, opened Christmas ’22 and thoughtfully tackles the triumphs and the struggles of the superstar Whitney Houston. The film soared to become the number one most-watched movie on Netflix on its debut weekend.

As an actress, Lemmons appeared in notable films such as Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs, John Woo’s Hard Target, Rusty Cundieff's Fear of a Black Hat, and Spike Lee’s School Daze.

Lemmons has worked extensively as a mentor and educator and currently serves as an Arts Professor in the Graduate Film Department at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She has shared her passion for writing and teaching with institutions across the world, including Yale University, MIT, USC, UCLA, AFI, Los Angeles Film School, and The University Pristina Film School in Kosovo. Lemmons holds an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Letters from Salem State College. She has served on the board of Film Independent since 2004.

Along with Academy-Award nominated composer Terrence Blanchard, Lemmons added librettist to her formidable body of work, creating the stage adaptation of Charles Blow’s New York Times bestselling memoir Fire Shut up in My Bones for the Opera Theater of Saint Louis. Fire Shut Up In My Bones opened The Metropolitan Opera’s 2021–22 season, the first by an African-American composer and librettist ever performed at The Met. Fire Shut Up in My Bones went on to win a Grammy for Best Opera Recording.