Karen Kasi Lemmons

Arts Professor

Photo of Associate Arts Professor Karen Kasi Lemmons

A proven talent as an actress, director and writer, KASI LEMMONS, continues to creatively tantalize with her thought provoking body of work.

Lemmons' work as an actress includes roles in Jonathan Demme's "Silence of the Lambs" opposite Jodie Foster, John Woo's first American film, "Hard Target," Rusty Cundieff's parody of the rap music industry, "Fear of a Black Hat," "Candyman" with Virginia Madsen, Spike Lee’s “School Days,” and "Vampire's Kiss" with Nicolas Cage.

Lemmons' first feature-length film, "Eve's Bayou," became the highest grossing independent film of 1997. The film won the Independent Spirit Award for "Best First Feature" and received seven NAACP "Image Award" nominations, including "Best Picture." In addition, Lemmons received a special first time director award, created just for her, from the National Board of Review. She also won the "Director's Achievement Award" at the 9th Annual Nortel Palm Springs Film Festival.

"The Caveman's Valentine," her follow-up feature to the acclaimed "Eve's Bayou," opened 2002's Sundance Film Festival to audience and critical acclaim. "The Caveman's Valentine" was a co-production of Danny Devito's Jersey Films and features "Eve's Bayou" star Samuel L. Jackson.

For the 2002 Oscar telecast, Kasi directed a touching tribute to Sidney Poitier. She was also involved in an exploration of the roles and representations of black women in film for the 2003 Tribeca Film Festival.

Lemmons’ third feature “Talk to Me”, starring Don Cheadle, was released nationwide in July 2007 by Focus Features to widespread critical acclaim. She received the 2008 NAACP Image Award for outstanding directing. The film also earned a Gotham Award for best ensemble cast, and Chiwetel Ejifor took home an Independent Spirit Award for Best Support Actor.

Lemmons’ most recent feature “Black Nativity,” an adaptation of the Langston Hughes’ musical of the same name, was released nationwide Thanksgiving 2013 by Fox Searchlight.

Lemmons has worked extensively as a mentor and educator.  For the past 14 years she has been a board member of Film Independent and has contributed to the Film Independent Filmmaker Labs as a speaker and moderator.  She also continues to serve as an advisor for the Sundance Screenwriter and Filmmaker Labs.

Guest teaching and speaking credits include Yale University, MIT, UCLA, USC, The Los Angeles Film School and The University of Pristina Film School in Kosovo.  As well as attending New York University School of the Arts, UCLA and The New School of Social Research Film Program, Lemmons was awarded an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, from Salem State College in 1998.  Currently, she is an Associate Arts Professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.


Directing II, Directing IV, Directing Projects


NYU Tisch School of Drama, UCLA, New School of Social Research - Film Certificate Program, Salem University - Honorary Doctorate