Zeinabu Irene Davis is an independent filmmaker and Professor of Communication at the University of California, San Diego. She is comfortable working in narrative, experimental, and documentary genres. Her work is passionately concerned with the depiction of women of African descent. A selection of her award-winning works includes a drama about a young slave girl for both children and adults, Mother of the River (1996); a love story set in Afro-Ohio, A Powerful Thang (1991), 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 won the Gordon Parks Award for Directing from the Independent Feature Project in 1999. Compensation was introduced by Academy Museum President Jacqueline Stewart and featured in the Black Independent Film showcase on TCM in July 2022. A restoration and release of the film by the Criterion Collection is in the works for 2023.
Her most recent documentary, Spirits of Rebellion: Black Cinema from Los Angeles (2016), won 7 awards, including the African Movie Academy Award and Best Feature Documentary and Audience Award from BlackStar. Professor Davis has received numerous grants and fellowships from such sources as California Humanities, National Black Programming Consortium, Rockefeller Foundation, the American Film Institute, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Davis is currently working on two films, a dramatic short about an experience of COVID-19 entitled Pandemic Bread and a hybrid documentary, Stars of the Northern Sky, which tells the stories of the legal trials of abolitionists Sojourner Truth, Phyllis Wheatley, and Marie Joseph Angelique.