Yoruba Richen

yoruba richen director
Yoruba Richen Black Public Media

Yoruba is a New York based, award-winning filmmaker and professor at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.

Her films have screened at festivals around the world including Tribeca Film Festival, Frameline, Full Frame and Doc NYC.  She was recently awarded a Trailblazer award from Black Public media. She was recently awarded a Trailblazer award from Black Public media. Her recent film, The Rebellious Life of Mrs Rosa Parks, co-directed with Johanna Hamilton,  is the first feature documentary about the pioneering icon and activist.  It won a Peabody and Gracie Award and was also honored by the Television Academy and nominated for a Critics Choice Award for Best Historical Documentary.  The film  aired on MSNBC and is streaming on Peacock.

Yoruba also recently  co-directed the film American Reckoning,  which investigates the unsolved 1967 murder of a NAACP leader in Mississippi, and reveals the little-known history of Black armed resistance during the civil rights movement.  It aired on Frontline and was nominated for an Emmy.  

Her film,  How It Feels to Be Free, takes an unprecedented look at the intersection of arts, politics and entertainment, telling the story of how the trailblazing African-American female performers Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll, Nina Simone, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier changed American culture through their films, fashion, their music and their politics. 

The film is executive produced by Alicia Keys and aired on PBS’s American Masters and the Canadian Broadcasting Company in January 2021.  It was nominated for an Emmy.  In 2020, Yoruba partnered with the New York Times and HULU and made The Killing of Breonna TaylorThe film investigates the life and death of 26 year old Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was killed by police officers in her home in Louisville, Kentucky.  It was the first documentary to feature an interview with the survivor of that fatal evening – her boyfriend Kenneth Walker.  It won an NAACP Image Award.  Also that year, Yoruba’s film The Sit In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show premiered on Peacock.   It chronicles the week singer, actor and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte took over the desk as guest host of Johnny Carson’s iconic “Tonight Show.” With a guest list that included Bobby Kennedy, Aretha Franklin and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr;’s last televised interview, Belafonte introduced a fractured, changing country to itself. Called a “must-watch” by Indiewire, the film was nominated  for two NAACP Image Awards, an Emmy and a Peabody Award.  Yoruba’s film Green Book: Guide to Freedom, released in 2018 is about a travel guide that helped African Americans navigate safe passage across America during the era of segregation. It aired on the Smithsonian Channel to  record audiences and was also Emmy nominated. 

Yoruba’s other work include directing an episode of the award-winning series Black and Missing for HBO and High on the Hog for Netflix. Black and Missing follows the Black and Missing Foundation’s fight to bring awareness to missing persons of color.   High on the Hog  tells the moving story of African Americans’ survival and triumph via the food that has knit generations together and helped define the American kitchen.

Yoruba was chosen to direct  the companion piece to the Oscar-winning documentary American Factory. The short, American Factory: A Conversation with the Obamas featured President Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama in conversation about the importance of storytelling.  The film was produced by Obama’s company Higher Ground and premiered on Netflix.  

Yoruba’s previous films, The New Black and Promised Land won multiple festival awards before airing on PBS’s Independent Lens and P.O.V.  She won a Clio award for her short film about the Grammy -nominated singer Andra Day.   Her latest film,  The Cost of Inheritance explores the complex issue of reparations in the United States.  The film takes a personal approach to understanding our history, historical injustices, systemic inequities and documents critical dialogue on racial conciliation between descendants of enslavers and the enslaved. Premieres on PBS’s America Reframed in 2023

Yoruba is a past Guggenheim and Fulbright fellow and won the Creative Promise Award at Tribeca All Access.  Yoruba  was a Sundance Producers Fellow and Women’s Fellow and is a recipient of the inaugural Chicken & Egg Breakthrough Filmmaker’s Award.  She  is  a featured TED Speaker and her talk, “What the gay rights movement learned from the Civil Rights movement”  has been viewed more than 600,000 times.  Yoruba was chosen for the Root 100 list of African Americans 45 years old and younger who are responsible for the year’s most significant moments and themes. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Science (AMPAS) the Director’s Guild of America (DGA) and the Writers Guild (WGA)