In tune with current protests across the US and beyond following the murder of George Floyd, here are three films that educate on the subject of black rights and inequality as much as they entertain.
As an irreparable cultural and political fracture between the Afro-American community and the US law enforcement continues to play out on the streets of America, Spike Lee’s 2018 crime comedy BlacKkKlansman works an inspirational invitation further examine social constructs and preconceptions.
Based on a true story and set in the early-mid 1970s, BlacKkKlansman narrates the story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first Afro-American detective to join Colorado Springs police department. Thanks to his outstanding voice impression skills, Stallworth is used to infiltrate a KKK branch with the aid of Jewish Detective Philip “Flip” Zimmerman (Adam Driver). Stallworth’s professional life, though, clashes with his private when he starts dating Black Panthers-associated activist Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier).
Drawing inspiration from the action-packed 70s blaxploitation blockbusters as well as the inspirational figures of Angela Davis and Gil Scott Heron, BlacKkKlansman holds a powerful message on solidarity beyond bias.
Watch BlaKkKlansman on Netflix and Amazon Prime.
BlacKkKlansman by Spike Lee, 2018
“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time. So that the first problem is how to control that rage so that it won’t destroy you.” – James Baldwin
Raoul Peck’s 2017, Oscar-nominated documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, is a truly powerful and poignant look at American History that unpicks the intricacies and injustices of racial politics. Celebrating the work of late African American activist and author James Baldwin, the film centres around Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, a memoir of his personal recollections of civil rights leaders Medgar Evans, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr – “I want these three lives to bang against and reveal each other, as they did in real life,” said Baldwin.
Here, the author’s eloquently devastating words – voiced by Samuel L. Jackson – are played out over a montage of racial history, from the Jim Crow to the Ferguson eras, alongside photographs and TV clips from Baldwin’s archive – including a 1968 appearance on the Dick Cavett Show when he robustly explains America’s damaging double standard to the squirming TV host.
In today’s world, Baldwin’s words echo as loud as ever: the anger timeless, defiant and unwavering.
Watch I Am Not Your Negro on Amazon and Google Play.
I Am Not Your Negro by Raoul Peck, 2016
The systems of inequality and racial violence that have been exposed once again by George Floyd’s death are laid bare in George Tillman Jr.’s excellent The Hate U Give, based on Angie Thomas’ novel of the same name. The film is testament to the daily realities of police violence against black people and the discriminatory forces they must navigate on a daily basis.
Starr Carter (Amanda Stenberg) is a sixteen-year-old who tones down her ‘blackness’ to fit in at a predominantly white high school in Georgia. Upon witnessing the shooting and death of her best friend Khalil (Algee Smith) by a white police officer who mistakes his hairbrush for a gun, Carter’s world is transformed. She is not only faced with pressure from all angles not to testify against the officer in front of a grand jury but must deal with the difficulties that arise with her white boyfriend (KJ Apa) and the racially biased media portrayal of Khalil’s death.
What emerges is an excellent account of black lives shattered by police violence that never reaches to demonstrate its current relevance but trusts in its multilayered narratives to deliver a powerful message. Echoing the message of Tupac Shakur’s album Thug Life (from which the film took its name: The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody) it is a message on the cyclical damage of racism and its many guises.
Watch The Hate U Give on Amazon Prime.
The Hate U Give by George Tillman Jr, 2018