Weekend Watchlist: Diane Houslin

Aisha Amin
March 31, 2023

In this series, we catch up with Columbia Film Professors and ask them to dish on what they're watching right now, which movies and shows blew them away or didn't live up to expectations, and what it's like to watch through a filmmaker's eyes.   

Assistant Professor of Film Diane Houslin is this week’s guest and is here to share what has been inspiring her lately. According to Houslin, a lot of the movies and television she's watching now are part of her research for a film in development, so she's watching with an eye for an actor’s range or a director’s chops. 

First on Houslin’s list is Hasan Minaj’s stand up comedy which includes the series The Patriot Act, and the comedy specials The King’s Jester and Homecoming King.

Still from 'The Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj'

Where to Watch it: 

The Patriot Act ran for six seasons and all episodes are available on Netflix. The King’s Jester and Homecoming King are also available on Netflix.

Why Houslin recommends it: 

“This is something I watched recently that I absolutely loved. I got into a rabbit hole of stand up comedy recently and Hasan, I think, is brilliant. One thing I really loved about his comedy specials is the fact that he is such an incredible storyteller. Hasan’s entire show is a story, a movie, it’s cinematic. I love his delivery and presentation and appreciate how smart and thought provoking and funny he is, but also the way his shows were shot was incredible. I can tell he really worked to develop the show in a way that was all encompassing. The way it was shot was so much a part of the show and the storytelling. There’s one bit where he falls to the ground and there’s an overhead shot of him that feels perfect. We are close up when he tells these very personal poignant stories. This for me is an excellent and unique form of storytelling. 

Houslin’s Takeaway:

“As a first generation American, there is so much I appreciate about the way he speaks about growing up first generation and that dual life you live. I think he does a beautiful job of telling the story of growing up between two worlds. That and the aesthetic quality of what he does as a comedian, and the fact that his story is incredibly personal and universal, made me love the show.”


Houslin’s second recommendation is a series called Harlem, in which a group of four friends navigate life and follow their dreams after graduating from college together.

Still from 'Harlem'

Where to Watch it: 

Two seasons are available on Amazon Prime.

Why Houslin recommends it: 

"This show tells the story of four Black women and a lot of people have been calling it the Black women’s version of Sex and the City. The writer and creator Tracey Oliver has made her name in this irreverent, female, girls-tripy kind of vibe, and now she has brought that to TV which I like. I appreciate it because she has such a specific voice and has translated it successfully from film to TV and it still feels fresh. 

"The second season ends with the four characters planning a girls trip, so you know what’s to come. I love the cultural specificity and how she is able to draw you in no matter where you’re from or who you are. They went deeper in the second season. One character is battling depression and I think Oliver did a beautiful job of dealing with it, showing some very deep layers in something that is considered a comedy and bringing forth some real tough things to the surface. I also appreciate the generational relevance of the show for people of that age—in their 30s—and how similar or dissimilar the world is to when I was that age." 

Houslin’s Takeaway:

"I like that these women in this show, as different as they are, have a core element that binds them together. I think they found something really special in this show and it’s worth watching to get a glimpse into the lives of 30-somethings making their way in life, love, career and sisterhood." 


Houslin’s third recommendation is the South African show Blood and Water, in which a Cape Town teen sets out to prove whether a private-school swimming star is her sister who was abducted at birth.

Poster for 'Blood and Water'

Where to watch it:

Blood and Water is streaming now on Netflix.

Why Houslin recommends it: 

"I really like things that are culturally specific but have universal themes and that’s why I love this South African series set in a prep school. I feel people have an impression of 'Africa,' which they think of as one country when it’s a continent; and South Africa is a very specific and special place. I love this show because it is prep school drama at its finest but set in South Africa. These characters are all from different ethnic backgrounds but all South African nationals. They do a great job of weaving all of their backgrounds into the stories of the characters. I love how the characters go in and out of their native tongue and dialect when they are with their families versus just with each other."

Houslin’s Takeaway:

"The show does have a first generation feel—for that country it's the first generation of kids influenced by hip-hop and western culture. All those kids could have grown up in Beverly hills etc. That shows how much western culture permeated the entire world—but this show did a great job of keeping it very South African."

Diane Houslin is a New York City based television and film producer. She has produced several series for broadcast and cable network giants, including; HBO, MTV, ESPN, PBS, NBC, VH1 and The Disney Channel. Her first short film, Morning Breath, received a special jury prize at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. Houslin served as Executive Producer on the ESPN Films feature documentary Through The Fire, which chronicled one fateful year in the life of Brooklyn basketball phenom, Sebastian Telfair. She also directed and produced the feature documentary Lay It On The Line, a comeback story of track sprinter Casey Combest, which was acquired by ESPN. Houslin was selected by the prestigious Sundance Institute as a 2008-09 Fellow in the inaugural class of the Creative Producers Lab. Her feature lab project was the film Yelling To The Sky, which starred Zoe Kravitz and Gabourey Sidibe. In 2009, Diane partnered with acclaimed novelist, Walter Mosley, to form B.O.B. Filmhouse, Inc. The company currently has projects in development with HBO, Cinemax, Sony TV and Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment. She lives in her hometown of Brooklyn, NY.