Here are 3 characteristics that I believe every "black film" should contain:
1. The core team behind the production is dominated by people of African decent. By “core team” I mean, the writer, the director and the producer must be of African decent; or, at the very least, the writer and the director must be of African decent.
2. The core team in front of the camera is also dominated by people of African decent. And once again, by “core team” in this case, I’m referring to the actors and/or actresses in the film. Essentially, the film must primarily tell a story (or stories) of a person (or people) of African descent.
3. This is a tough one, for obvious reasons. The film must be financed either fully or partly by a person of African decent. This poses an obvious problem, notably that it eliminates the vast majority of Hollywood movies, because Hollywood movies are funded almost entirely by studio money - white-owned and operated studio money - with very few exceptions, like when Spike Lee funded Get on the Bus entirely with the financial assistance of capable black people, as well as Malcolm X, which was partly funded by a few of the black elite.
Those are my 3 criteria for any film to be labeled a "black film." Or, it should at least meet 2 of the 3. Actually, in thinking about it a little more, the first two criteria are the most crucial. The last one isn’t as crucial, although one could make a strong case for the influence that the financier might have on the production of the film; meaning that, for example, a script might be altered for one reason or another because the financial backer of the film might oppose a specific plotline or theme, and might push for the removal of what he/she/they oppose, whether aggressively or passively, putting the filmmaker into a situation where they are forced to choose between maintaining the integrity of the original story they wanted to tell, versus just getting the film made, by any means necessary, regardless of how much sacrificing must be done to do so. Obviously, this hypothetical setup could involve either a white financial backer or a black financial backer; we shouldn’t take certain things for granted simply because the person sitting across from us at the contract table is the same skin color as we are!
But, I’ll say, for now, every film must meet at a minimum, the first 2 criteria; and if they meet the 3rd one, then that's even better.
What says you? How do you identify a "black film?"
While you're thinking about it, be sure to check out Mark A Reid's book above, Redefining Black Film. It's definitely a worthwhile read!