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A Comprehensive Watchlist of Black Storytelling

Amar Sall shares his Black Storytelling watchlist with BRICKS, featuring films, television shows and documentaries celebrating Black voices.

FILM SELECTION Amar Sall

In the wake of the tragic murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade by police officers in the US, and the subsequent international protests calling for justice, the Black community has voiced its concerns to white allies. It’s not enough to be non-racist – true allies of the Black Lives Matter movement must be anti-racist. This means calling out racism at every level, engaging in political action and educating ourselves on Black history, to better understand the fight that Black activists have been battling for centuries.

There is no excuse not to take these steps, and with an abundance of free time granted to many of us due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, there’s never been a more appropriate time to sit down and put the work in. 

This is not to say that the work has to be gruelling – in fact, with the resources available to us online, the experience can be as eye-opening as it is enjoyable.

Film fanatic Amar Sall has taken this one step further, by curating a list of 100 films, television shows and documentaries easily accessible online directed by and/or starring Black faces telling Black stories.

He says, “This watchlist consists of content that I have been discovering and watching that I believe are worth sharing. I know I won’t be able to cover every voice, but just being able to raise awareness of the significance and breadth of work done by Black storytellers is the goal, and to share this resource with others.”

He continues, “I strive to continue to educate myself through the lens of Black filmmaking, there is still so much more to be seen and heard and this is by no means a finished list. Let’s help share these stories.”

The following list contains content that can be easily located with a quick internet search. They can also be found on some of the more mainstream and speciality streaming sites including: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Youtube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, MUBI, BFI Player, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and the Criterion Collection/Channel.

Read Amar’s list below, or click here to see his full document.

12 Years a Slave

2014Steve McQueenFilm15

This harrowing biographical period-drama directed by Steve McQueen is an adaptation of the 1853 slave memoir of the same name by Solomon Northup. The story follows Solomon, a New York State-born free African-American who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. The first scholarly edition of Northup’s memoir was carefully retraced, the account validated and concluded to be accurate. Other characters in the film were also real people that Northup interacted with.

Named the best film in 2013, “12 Years a Slave” won the Academy Award for Best Picture, making Steve McQueen the first Black-British producer to ever receive the award and the first Black-British director of a Best Picture Win. Lupita Nyong’o’s career defining performance also earnt her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. The film was also recognised by BAFTA similarly.

13th

2016Ava DuVernayDocumentary15

Titled after the 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery in the US, this documentary examines the prison-industrial complex and the emerging detention-industrial complex. Filmmaker, Ava DuVernay has been praised for the meticulous display of facts with one review citing, “The United States did not just criminalize a select group of black people. It criminalized black people as a whole.”

The film was nominated for dozens of awards, winning the BAFTA and Primetime Emmy for Best Documentary, and an Academy Award Nomination. The film can be seen on Netflix.

A Moving Image

2016Shola AmooFilm15

“A Moving Image” is a striking portrait of gentrification in Brixton, London. This award-winning feature incorporates fiction, documentary and performance art. The film follows Nina, an artist returning home after a long absence who is painted as a symbol of gentrification. We follow the character of Nina as she creates art to bring her community together.

The film’s journey is intertwined with the voices of real people affected by the gentrification of Brixton, blurring the line between reality and fiction.

Atlanta

2016Donald GloverTelevision15

Starring creator, Donald Glover as Earnest Marks, a college dropout, “Atlanta” follows the story of Marks and his cousin Alfred, as they navigate his rap career within the Atlanta rap scene. The show is currently only at two critically acclaimed seasons, however, has been renewed for a third and fourth season to air in 2021. Containing a plethora of recurring and guest roles from Black performers, “Atlanta” has solidified Donald Glover as not just a performer but also a multimedia content creator.

“Atlanta” received critical acclaim and various accolades, including two Golden Globes and two Primetime Emmy Awards. Glover’s Emmy for Outstanding Directing was the first ever awarded to an African-American.

Babylon

1980Franco RossoFilm15

Filmed on the streets of Deptford and Brixton, Babylon is a story on sound system culture. It depicts the struggles of Black British working-class musicians facing police racism, racial violence, poverty and disillusion with lack of opportunities. The film is regarded as a British classic, supported by the National Film Finance Corporation.

Despite being made in 1980, the film was denied theatrical release in the United States until last year, 2019.

Bamboozled

2000Spike LeeFilm15

This satirical comedy about a modern, televised minstrel show featuring black actors donning black face makeup, follows the success and resulting fallout violence from the smash hit it becomes. Despite its initial reception, “Bamboozled” achieved cult film status for its satirical look at stereotypical depictions of black people in both historical and contemporary American film and television productions.

Bamboozled was added to the Criterion Collection in 2020.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

2012Beth ZeitlinFilm12

Adapted from Lucy Alibar’s one-act play “Juicy and Delicious”, the film follows the character of 6 year old Hushpuppy, who in the wake of her father’s ill health and flooding of her home, must brave prehistoric creatures and seek out her lost mother. “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” has been hailed as a fantastical, emotionally powerful journey and a strong piece of filmmaking that values imagination over money.

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Actress. At age 9, lead star Quvenzhané Wallace became the youngest Best Actress nominee in history.

Belle

2012Beth ZeitlinFilm12

Adapted from Lucy Alibar’s one-act play “Juicy and Delicious”, the film follows the character of 6 year old Hushpuppy, who in the wake of her father’s ill health and flooding of her home, must brave prehistoric creatures and seek out her lost mother. “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” has been hailed as a fantastical, emotionally powerful journey and a strong piece of filmmaking that values imagination over money.

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Actress. At age 9, lead star Quvenzhané Wallace became the youngest Best Actress nominee in history.

Black Mother

2018Khalik AllahDocumentary15

Summised as a “spiritual journey through Jamaica,” Khalik Allah soaks this film in the bustling metroplises and tranquil countryside of its location. Capturing testimonies from local residents their voices creat a visual prayer of “indeliable portraiture”, immersed between the sacred and profane. “Black Mother” channels rebellion and reverence into a deeply personal ode informed by Jamaica’s turbulent history but existing in the, “urgent present.”

The film’s distinct visuals were due to it being shot on Super 8, Super 16, Bolex film and digital cameras.

©Marvel Studios 2018

Black Panther

2018Ryan CooglerFilm12

A vibrant, culturally significant and magnetic blockbuster. “Black Panther” made history upon its release in 2018 as the first major studio film to have an all-black principle cast and production. The film tells the Shakespearian-esque story of Prince T’Challa as he returns home to be crowned King of Wakanda, but is challenged by a familial outsider who plans to use the nations resources to start a global revolution against Black oppresion. Praised globally for its direction, powerful story, treatment of female characters, handling of antagonism, music, costume and production design, Coogler’s superhero blockbuster paved a new chapter in accessible Black Cinema and Storytelling.

“Black Panther” received numerous awards and nominations including Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Costume Design, Original Score and Production Design aswell as three Golden Globe nominations and three Critics’ Choice Awards wins.

Black Panthers

1968Agnès VardaDocumentaryUnrated

FIlmed by the legendary Agnès Varda, “Black Panthers” was shot in Oakland, California during the protests over Huey P. Newton’s arrest for John Frey’s murder in 1967. This film contains interviews from Newton himself, outlining the importance of the movement and an interview from Kathleen Cleaver who talk about the ever increasing importance of women in positions of authority, in particular, in the Black Panther movement.

This picture is catalogued and preserved on the Criterion Collection.

Black Sheep

2018Ed PerkinsDocumentaryUnrated

This documentary short follows the life of Cornelius Walker whose life is changed on the 27 November 2000, the day Damilola Taylor was killed. The film uses non-actors in real locations close to the where the real life events took place. Black Sheep combines documentary and fiction to ask the question, what really makes us who we are?

This Guardian commissioned short was nominated for the 2019 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. FREE to watch on Youtube.

Black Skin, White Mask

1996Isaac JulienFilm12

Isaac Julien’s collaborative film, “Black Skin, White Mask,” is a biographical portrait of Frantz Fanon, an influential psychologist, philosopher, writer and revolutionary. Named after his book of the same name in 1952, Fanon explores the psychological effects of colonialism. With a combination of historical re-enactment, archival footage and interviews the film purpose is to embody the principles Fanon laid out and their continued significance to post-colonial discourse today.

The film was recently restored by the British Film Institute from its original 16mm negatives enabling this integral piece of work to re-join contemporary discourse.

BlacKkKlansman

2018Spike LeeFilm15

Hailed as a return to form for Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman” is based on the 2014 memoir “Black Klansman” by Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective to infiltrate and expose the local Ku Klux Klan. Praised for its excellent direction and performances the film gained worldwide critical acclaim. Ontop of its dramatised narrative, Lee ends the film with an epilogue and tribute to Heather Heyer, who was killed in the Charlottesville car attack in 2017 during the Unite the Right Rally.

The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Grand Prix. It went on to receive numerous nominations across the board including Best Picture and won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, making it Spike Lee’s first competitive Academy Award win.

Blue Story

2019Andrew OnwuboluFilm15

Known as “Rapman”, director Onwubolu’s directorial debut tells the tragic tale of best friends Marco and Timmy, from different areas of London (Peckham and Deptford). Based on Rapman’s Youtube series of the same name, the story on film is told through the two viewpoints of the central characters with periodic interjections by Rapman himself, who narrates the feature through the form of Rap. Based on real events of Onwubolu’s personal experiences growing up, “Blue Story” depicts the struggles and intertwining lives of those caught in South London gang culture.

Hailed as a “capably performed morality play,” the film was shortlisted for an Outstanding Debut BAFTA with lead actor, Michael Ward, earning the publicly voted EE BAFTA Rising Star Award.

Body and Soul

1925Oscar MicheauxFilmUnrated

In 1925 known as a “race film”, Micheaux’s “Body and Soul” traces a malevolent and sinister minister who hides behind his uniform. He consorts with and extorts from the owner of a gambling house, and betrays an honest girl, leading them both into ruin. The film was refused approval for exhibition on the grounds it would “incite crime” and its “immoral” nature, Micheaux’s director’s cut of the film was lost forever.

“Body and Soul” was originally released to cater exclusively to African-American audiences, and for many years the film was unknown to white moviegoers. In 2019 it was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Boyz n the Hood

1991John SingletonFilm15

This iconic coming of age drama follows three childhood friends, who struggle to cope with the distractions and dangers of booming gang culture whilst growing up in a Los Angeles ghetto.

Praised for its emotional weight, acting and writing, it was nominated for Best Director and Original Screenplay at the 64th Academy Awards, making John Singleton the youngest person and first African American to be nominated for Best Director. Boyz n the Hood was deemed “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Brother to Brother

2004Rodney EvansFilmUnrated

Praised for its depiction of homosexuality in its black characters, “Brother to Brother” follows central character, Perry and his struggles as he is drawn into a romantic entanglement with a white boy in his class. After befriending an elderly homeless man by the name of Bruce, Perry discovers that the challenges of homophobia and racism he faces in the early 21st century, parallels Bruce’s experiences in 1920s America.

Nominated for many awards, “Brother to Brother” won numerous accolades including the New York Lesbian and Gay Film Festival Vanguard Award and the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

Bullet Boy

2004Saul DibbFilm15

Set in Hackney, East London, this film centres itself on family, its eldest son’s involvement in gun crime, and the effects of this on his younger brother. Often referred to as “British Boyz n the Hood”, Bullet Boy is a gripping and authentic British drama that takes an unflinching look at the lives of two troubled, street smart boys trying to make their way through the pressures of London’s East end.

With a praised air of realism, this British film provides superb and deeply honest performances from Ashley Walters and Claire Perkins.

Burning an Illusion

1981Menelik ShabazzFilm15

Known as the second British feature film to have been made by a black director, following Horace Ové’s “Pressure”, and has been described as the “the first British film to give a black woman a voice of any kind.” The film follows a young British-born black woman’s love life, shot in London. The feature is praised as it avoids “the tradition of placing white males at the center of the story,” and a rare example of prioritizing the the personal drama of a black woman, over economic and political conflicts.

The film won the Grand Prix at the Amiens International Film Festival in France and honoured with a Screen Nation Classic Film Award in October 2011.

Cane River

1982Horace JenkinsFilmUnrated

This film recently found resurgence in 2013 after it was lost for many years as director, Horace Jenkins, died before the film could be released. “Cane River” tells the story of love between two African-Americans of different class backgrounds. Together they face schisms of class and colour that threaten to keep them apart and that still take place in America today. The film was praised for its, “rarity: a drama by an independent black filmmaker, financed by wealthy black patrons and dealing with race issues untouched by mainstream cinema”.

The film was rediscovered in 2013 and re-released in 2018. It now premieres on the Criterion Collection as of May, 2020.

Chewing Gum

2015Michaela CoelTelevision15

Written by and starring Michaela Coel, “Chewing Gum” tells the story of shop assistant Tracey Gordon, a restricted, and religious 24 year old who wants to have sex and learn more about the world. The series takes place in London and filming locations have included the Andover Estate in Holloway, North London. Originally premiering on the channel E4, the show consisted of two series of 6 episodes each.

Micaela Coel’s performance earned her a British Academy Television Award for Best Female Comedy Performance and also a BAFTA for Breakthrough Talent for writing the show.

Color Adjustment

1991Marlon RiggsDocumentaryUnrated

“Color Adjustment” traces 40 years of race relations and representation of African Americans through the lens of prime-time television entertainment. Narrated by Ruby Dee, the documentary has been praised in its handling of scrutinizing television’s racial myths and examining racial stereotypes in the broadcast age.

The documentary was received a Peabody Award and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. It also received a National Emmy Award Nomination for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Research.

Crown Heights

2017Matt RuskinFilm15

This biographical drama tells the true story of Colin Warner, wrongfully convicted of murder, and how his best friend, Carl King, devoted his life to proving Colin’s innocence. With a widely praised standout performance from lead actor LaKeith Stanfield, “Crown Heights” projection of hopelessness and frustration from fighting an oppressive system is unforgettable.

The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017 and won the Audience Award for US Dramatic Film.

Da 5 Bloods

2020Spike LeeFilm18

Spike Lee’s most recent entry follows four African-American Vietnamese veterans who return to Vietnam in search of their fallen squad leader and the promise of treasure. These heroes battle forces of humanity and nature while confronted by the lasting ravages of the immorality of the Vietnam War. Shot on location in Vietnam and Thailand, this is Lee’s most ambitious outing to date, on scale alone.

Filled with an incredible line-up of black talent, “Da 5 Bloods” arrives on Netflix on June 12, 2020, and will no doubt be another masterclass from Spike.

Dark Girls

2011D. Channsin Berry and Bill DukeDocumentary12

Documenting colourism within the African American community, still considered to be a taboo by many, “Dark Girls” explores the role it has played in the lives of African American women. Inlcuding notable voices such as Viola Davis and their detailed accounts and experiences, the film also explores and delves into the emerging multi billion dollar business of skin bleaching.

Reflecting on the effects of racism on the self-image of Black women personally and collectively, “Dark Girls”, was shown to a sell-out crowd and now has a sequel documentary premiering on June 30, 2020.

Daughters of the Dust

1991Julie DashFilmPG

Documenting colourism within the African American community, still considered to be a taboo by many, “Dark Girls” explores the role it has played in the lives of African American women. Inlcuding notable voices such as Viola Davis and their detailed accounts and experiences, the film also explores and delves into the emerging multi billion dollar business of skin bleaching.

Reflecting on the effects of racism on the self-image of Black women personally and collectively, “Dark Girls”, was shown to a sell-out crowd and now has a sequel documentary premiering on June 30, 2020.

Dear White People

2014Justin SimienFilm15

With its direct title, “Dear White People” focuses on escalating racial tensions at a fictitious, prestigious Ivy League college and is told through the perspective of several black students. The film was received overwhelmingly by critics stating the film, “adds a welcome new voice to cinema’s often neglected discussion of race, tackling its themes with intelligence, honesty and gratifyingly sharp wit.

After winning awards at the Sundance Film Festival, Spirit Awards, Palm Springs International Film Festival and Gotham Independent Film Awards, the film was adapted into a Netflix series of the same name in 2017, with writer and director Simien remaining involved.

Do The Right Thing

1989Spike LeeFilm18

Spike Lee’s early career masterpiece explores racial tension in a neighbourhood in Brooklyn, New York. The simmering tensions culminates in an explosion of violence and a shocking death on the hottest day of the summer. It is often listed as one of the greatest films of all time, and in 1999, deemed “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant” by the US Library of Congress. The feature was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in its first year of eligibility.

Auteur, Spike Lee, actively campaigns and continues to make work that explores race relations and colorism in the black community.

Dolemite is My Name

2019Craig BrewerFilm18

Praised as a return to form for Eddy Murphy, “Dolemite is My Name” is the biographical story of adult filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore, best known for his onscreen character, Dolemite. Widely known for his stand-up routines and series of blaxploitation films, the story of Rudy Ray Moore highlights the tough struggle and inequal opportunities facing black creatives at the time. The film earned rave reviews from critics for Murphy’s performance but more importantly, for the exquisite, flamboyant, integral and character defining costume design from Ruth E. Carter, without whom the films charm and flair, “would be completely lost”.

“Dolemite is My Name” was chosen by both the National Board of Review and TIME magazine as one of the ten best films of the year, it was also nominated for two Golden Globes. It can be seen on Netflix.

Down in the Delta

1998Maya AngelouFilm12

In her feature directorial debut, poet and activist Maya Angelou tells the story of the Sinclair family matriarch Rosa Lynn. We follow Lynn deal with her past demons as she escapes the dangers of inner-city Chicago to raising money for helping her two grandchildren and drug addict daughter.

[Lead star] Alfre Woodard’s work drew significant praise from critics who lauded her for a “beautifully layered performance”.

Explained: The Racial Wealth Gap

2018Joe PosnerDocumentary15

As part of the Netflix docu-series “Explained”, Cory Booker and others discuss how slavery, housing discrimination and centuries of inequality have compounded to create a racial wealth gap.

This short but significant deep dive into the Racial Wealth Gap can been seen on Netflix, as part of the “Explained” Documentary Series.

Eyes on the Prize

1987Julian BondDocumentary12

Originally aired in both the US and UK, this documentary uses archival footage, stills and interviews of participants and opponents of the Civil Rights Movement. The title of the series is derived from the title of the folk song, “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize,” which is used as the opening them music in each episode. Over 14 episodes, the documentary follows the Movement from 1954 through to the 1983 election of Harold Washington, the first African-American Mayor of Chicago.

The series has been hailed as more than just a historical document and because of its extensive use of primary sources and in-depth coverage of the material, it has been adopted as a key reference and record of the Civil Rights Movement.

Freedom Riders

2010Stanley Nelson Jr.DocumentaryPG-13

Based in part on the book “Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice” by historian Raymond Arsenault, this documentary marked the 50th anniversary of the first Freedom Ride in May 1961 (film aired in 2011). Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the films follow the story of hundreds of civil rights activists called Freedom Riders that challenged racial segregation in American interstate transportation.

Receiving positive responses, it has been said that Freedom Riders is, “One of the great social epics of our time.”

Fruitvale Station

2013Ryan CooglerFilm15

Based on a real-life tragedy, Fruitvale Station follows the events leading to the death of Oscar Grant, killed by a Police Officer in the early hours of New Years Day, 2009. A passionate and powerful biographical feature, Fruitvale Station is an affecting “celebration of life, and a condemnation of death.”

Ryan Coogler’s directorial debut won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013.

Get Out

2017Jordan PeeleFilm15

Known as one of the most iconic entries in contemporary cinema, Jordan Peele’s ,“Get Out” follows Chris, a young African-American man visiting his caucasian girlfriend’s family for the first time, and as the title suggests, uncovers a disturbing secret. This directoral debut from Jordan Peele shocked audiences around the globe with its modern day take on historical and oppresive themes, alongside a career defining performance from Black-British actor, Daniel Kaluuya.

“Get Out” received worldwide acclaim for its direction, themes and dominated its year’s awards season. Jordan Peele became the third person to earn Best Picture, Director and Screenplay nominations for a debut film, and is the first black winner for Best Original Screenplay.

Girlhood

2014Céline SciammaFilm15

Female powerhouse and activist, Céline Sciamma, tells us a coming of age story that focuses on the life of Marieme, a girl who lives in a rough neighbourhood on the outskirts of Paris. The film discusses and challenges the conceptions of race, gender and class. The ultimate goal of the film was to capture the stories of black teenagers and characters that Sciamma claims are widely underdeveloped in French cinema.

“Girlhood” received over a dozen awards nominations and won numerous Special Jury Awards. The film also makes prominent use of the song “Diamonds,” by Rihanna, and after watching this, you will never hear in the same way again.

Good Hair

2009Jeff StilsonDocumentary12

“Good Hair” focuses on how African-American women have perceived their hair and historically styled it. The film explores the current styling industry for black women, images of what is considered acceptable and desirable for African-American women’s hair in the US, and their relation to African-American culture. The production encountered much criticism during release and stated that, “it’s not important what’s on top of your head, it’s important what’s inside of it. That is the theme of the movie.”

“Good Hair”, received the Special Jury Prize for a Documentary at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and also nominated for Best Documentary Screenplay from the Writers Guild of America.

Hale County This Morning, This Evening

2018RaMell RossDocumentaryPG-13

Following various inhabitants of Hale County, in Alabama’s Black Belt, this piece strays from the traditional structure of a documentary and asks questions using intertitles that help loosely structure the film. RaMell Ross uses his filmmaking here as a way to “participate, not capture; shoot from, not at” the community, providing a new way of layering the language of truth. This feature intimately captures the lives progessing on camera, as they float in and out of frame, but is thematically expansive and draws “extraordinary insights from ordinary moments.”

Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 91st Academy Awards.

Harriet

2019Kasi LemmonsFilm12

This biographical film about abolitionist Harriet Tubman follows her escape from slavery and through dangerous escapades how she led to liberate hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad, A sincere tribute and pivotal portrait of a key figure in American history, “Harriet” “holds interests and invites respect”.

For her performance as Harriet, Cynthia Erivo received nominations at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild. She also received Oscar and Golden Globe nomination with Joshuah Brian Campbell for writing the song, “Stand Up”.

Higher Learning

1995John SingletonFilm15

Following his directing of “Boyz n the Hood”, John Singleton wrote and directed “Higher Learning”, with another star-studded ensemble cast, at only age 25. The film follows the changing lives of three incoming freshman at (the fictional) Columbus University. Coming from diverse backgrounds, they find themselves at the receiving end of racism and suffer several unpleasant experiences whilst learning on campus. Singleton’s direction has been praised, citing, “he sees with a clear eye and a strong will” and how he, “interweaves the threads oh his demographic tapestry with assurance and passion.”

For his performance in the film, Laurence Fishburne won the Outstanding Supporting Actor Award at the 1996 Image Awards.

Hoop Dreams

1994Steve JamesDocumentary12

“Hoop Dreams”, follows the story of two African-American high school students, William Gates and Arthur Agee in Chicago, and their dream of becoming professional basketball players. Originally intended to be just a 30-minute short film, it eventually turned into 5 years of filming with over 250 hours of footage. The film raises a number of issues concerning race, social class, economic division, education and values in the contemporary US.

The documentary premiered at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival and won the Audience Award for Best Documentary. It was #1 on the Current TV special “50 Documentaries to See Before You Die.”

I Am Not A Witch

2017Rungano NyoniFilm12

Co-produced internationally for her debut feature film, Rungano Nyoni tells the story of an 8 year old girl who is accused of withcraft in her local village and is exiled to a witch camp. To produce this captivating, chaotic and beautiful tale, director Nyoni travelled to Ghana and spent time learning and observing camp life and rituals.

The film won the BAFTA Award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. It was also selected as the British entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards.

I Am Not Your Negro

2016Raoul PeckDocumentaryPG-13

Based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, “Remember This House”, this documentary explores the history of racism in the U.S. through Baldwin’s reflections of Civil rights leaders; Medgar Evans, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Narrated by Samuel L Jackson.

This was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 89th Academy Awards and also won a BAFTA for Best Documentary.

Picture Shows: Arabella (MICHAELA COEL) – (C) Val Productions – Photographer: Natalie Seery

I May Destroy You

2020Michaela CoelTelevisionTBC

Co-produced by HBO and the BBC, Michaela Coel’s series is set in London and centers around the story of a young woman who must rebuild her life after her drink is spiked. The series is produced by Coel’s own production company FALKNA Productions. Michaela Coel stated during a lecture in 2018 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that she had been sexually assaulted while filming her previous work, “Chewing Gum”, and that the experience provided inspiration for the series.

Releasing on June 8th, 2020, early responses have hailed this as a, “touching and quietly hilarious” story filled with the complexity of tackling the subject matter around sexual assault in the emergence of the Me Too movement.

If Beale Street Could Talk

2018Barry JenkinsFilm15

Off the bat of his Best Picture win for “Moonlight”, director Barry Jenkins follow up was tackling an adaptation of the James Baldwin novel of the same name for the screen. The film follows a young woman who, with her family’s support, seeks to clear the name of her wrongly charged lover and prove his innocence before the birth of their child. Known for his stunning cinematographic portraits, Barry Jenkins received critical acclaim once more for his screenplay, cinematography and musical score.

The film was chosen by both the National Board of Review and American Film Institute as one of the Top 10 Films of 2018. The film gained Supporting Actress wins for Regina King at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes.

Insecure

2016Issa Rae and Larry WilmoreTelevision15

Partially based on Rae’s acclaimed web series, “Awkward Black Girl”, Insecure unpacks the story of the black female experience in L.A. Using the perspective of two black female protagonists, the show follows the internal struggles within themselves, their friendship, relationships and the African-American community. The half-hour episodes explore social and racial issues that relate to the contemporary black experience.

In 2017, the American Film Institute selected “Insecure” as one of the Top 10 TV Programs of the Year. For her performance in the series, Rae has earned numerous awards nominations from the Golden Globes to the Primetime Emmys.

Jemima & Johnny

1966Lionel NgakaneFilmUnrated

This short film take place in Notting Hill and follows the son of a white supremacist, and a daughter of black Caribbean immigrants as they share a day out together in a city where racial hostility is rife. The film allows us to observe their adventure in London, and how an innocent relationship affects the lives of those around them. The film pays homage to the 1950s Free Cinema documentary movement, and its poor sound quality reflects its small budget, but also evokes the confusion felt by an immigrant in an unfamiliar country.

Jemima & Johnny can be seen for FREE on BFI Player.

Just Mercy

2019Destin Daniel CrettonFilm12

“Just Mercy” tells the true story of Walter McMillan, who, with the help of a young and dedicated defense attorney, Bryan Stevenson, works to free McMillan, a wrongly condemned death row prisoner. Bryan becomes entangled in the labyrinth of legal and political maneuverings due to systemic and unabashed racism. With the odds stacked against them, they persist to seek the truth. With solid performances and directing, the film displays an urgency to find the truth against overwhelming odds.

At the 26th Screen Actors Guild Awards, Jamie Foxx received a nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role.

Kidulthood (Trilogy)

2006Menhaj Huda and Noel ClarkeFilm15

This series of British drama films began in 2006 with Kidulthood, 2008 with Adulthood and concluded in 2016 with Brotherhood. The trilogy focuses on the lives of several teenagers in Ladbroke Grove and the Latimer Road area of inner west London and is praised for its use of real locations. The trilogy is known by its audience as a, “rollicking UK youth ride, cinematically filmed, persuasively acted and bumped along by a fantastic all-British soundtrack”.

The series catapulted Noel Clarke as top British talent, the series garnering him the BAFTA Rising Star Award in 2009. Clarke took the reins of the trilogy after Kidulthood and took charge as director for the final two instalments, Adulthood and Brotherhood.

King in the Wilderness

2018Peter KunhardtDocumentaryPG-13

Focusing on the final 18 months of his life, “King in the Wilderness” traces the events leading up to Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination on April 4, 1968. Using never before seen footage of interviews with those closest to him combined with historical archive footage, the documentary highlights a period of his life when he constantly stared death in the face. Despite his own self-doubts, King refused to back away from the civil rights challenges of the times.

King in the Wilderness won an Emmy for Outstanding Historical Documentary.

LA 92

2017T.J. Martin & Daniel LindsayDocumentary15

Following the verdict of the Rodney King trial in 1992, this documentary examines the tumultuous period that saw several days of protests, violence and looting in Los Angeles. Consisting of rarely seen archival footage, filmmakers provide a strong viewpoint on the institutional defects that led to the riots. Critics praised “LA 92” as being an “experience that gives a full sense of the anarchy and rage of the post-King verdict days, thrusting us fully into events in very much of a You Are There manner.”

This documentary can be seen on Netflix.

Looking for Langston

1989Isaac JulienFilm15

This British black & white film combines archival newsreel footage with scripted scenes to produce a non-linear storyline celebrating black gay identity and desire. With a short film run time of 42 minutes, the film delves into the artistic and cultural period known as the Harlem Renaissance.

Today, the film is preserved by the British Film Institute as part of its national “Black Work” initiative celebrating black creativity in film.

Losing Ground

1982Kathleen CollinsFilmUnrated

Known as the first feature-length drama to be directed by a black American woman (since the 1920s), “Losing Ground” throws light on an unstable marriage between a philosophy professor and a flamboyant, insensitive artistic husband. When his wife sets out on a journey to find ecstasy, her husband sees her differently.

Although the film never played outside of the festival circuit during her lifetime (Collins died in 1988 at the age of 46), it has been later rediscovered by critics and added for preservation in the Criterion Collection.

Lovecraft Country

2020Misha GreenTelevisionTBC

In association with Jordan Peele and his Monkeypaw Productions, “Lovecraft Country” follows Atticus Black, his friend Letitia and his Uncle George as they embark on a road-trip across 1950s American in search of Black’s missing father. The series is a depiction of the struggles to survive and overcome the racist terrors of white America with the addition of the terrifying monsters that could be ripped from the pages of a Lovecraft novel.

“Lovecraft Country” is set for release in August 2020 on HBO, and it will consist of ten episodes.

Malcolm X

1992Spike LeeFilmPG-13

This is Spike Lee’s dramatic, epic biographical film and tribute to the African-American activist, Malcolm X. Covering key events in the life of Malcolm X, the feature follows him from his incarceration, his conversion to Islam, through to his assassination in 1965. The film is based largely on Alex Haley’s 1965 book, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”, whom he collaborated with.

Denzel Washington won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor and was nominated for the similar Academy Award. In 2010, it was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry.

Medicine for Melancholy

2008Barry JenkinsFilm15

This film is the directorial debut of filmmaker Barry Jenkins and tells the story of a one day romance between Micah and Jo. These two young African Americans have a one-night stand and end up spending the day together despite Jo’s long-distance relationship with a wealthy white gallery owner. The film is praised for it having “effortlessly engaging” actors and “assured” direction, and also noted for it being “beautifully photographed”.

Jenkins first feature was a New York Times Critics’ Pick and nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards in 2008.

Moonlight

2016Barry JenkinsFilm15

This spectacular feature is widely known as one of the most significant and important entries in not just Black cinema, but global cinema. “Moonlight” by Barry Jenkins is based on the unpublished semi-autobiographical play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.” by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The film is a coming of age tale spread across three keys stages in the life of the central character: his youth, adolescence and early adult life. It explores the difficulties he faces with his sexuality and identity, including the emotional and physical abuse he endures growing up. “Moonlight” received flat-out critical acclaim and is commonly cited as one of the best films of the 21st Century.

“Moonlight” made history. It became the first film with an all-black cast and the first LGBTQ related film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Joi McMillon became the first black woman to be nominated for an editing Oscar, and Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim to win an acting Oscar.

Mudbound

2017Dee ReesFilm15

Stunningly directed by Dee Rees and based on the novel of the same name, “Mudbound” depicts two World War II veterans – one white, one black – who return to rural Mississippi each to address racism and PTSD in their own way. The film provided a strong position for Black storytelling through streaming services and commanded a tour de force performance from Mary J. Blige. Praised by critics for its screenplay, direction, cinematography and performances, Mudbound earned 4 nominations at the Academy Awards.

The film paved the way for Rachel Morrison to be the first woman ever nominated for Best Cinematography and Blige became the first person to ever be nominated for an acting and song award during the same year.

My Brother’s Wedding

1983Charles BurnettFilm12

Edited, produced, written and directed by Burnett, this tragicomedy centers on a man named Pierce as he settles for working at his parent’s dry cleaners in South Central L.A.. When his brother Wendell plans on marrying someone of a higher social class, his disdain for her prevents him from making the morally right decision. Rather than a “blaxploitation” film, this feature was released as a Black Independent Film, focusing on many aspects of African American life, rather than just the negative side.

Praised as timeless and necessary, the film was called a, “treasure that demands to be unearthed in all its funny-sad tenderness.”

Noughts and Crosses

2020Julian HolmesTelevision15

Based on the first book in the “Noughts & Crosses” novel series by Malorie Blackman, this series is set in an alternate history where black “Cross” people rule over white “Noughts”. Set against a background of prejudice, distrust and powerful rebellion mounting on the streets, a passionate romance builds between Sephy and Callum which leads them on a path to danger.

Available to watch on BBC iPlayer, this reverse-race love story is, “vital viewing”, and highlights the challenges that working-class white people and people of colour share in the real world.

Pariah

2011Dee ReesFilm15

“Pariah” is a feature-length expansion of director Dee Rees’ previous award-winning short film of the same title. Executively produced by Spike Lee, the film tells the story of Alike, a 17 year old African American embracing her identity as a lesbian. Filmed in and around New York City, predominently Brooklyn, “Pariah” solidified Dee Rees as one of the most important black storytellers and voices in contemporary cinema.

Pariah premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was awarded the Excellence in Cinematography Award.

Precious

2009Lee DanielsFilm15

Based on the novel, “Push” by Sapphire, the film follows the titular character struggling against poverty, domestic and racial abuse. Set in New York City’s Harlem in 1987, we follow Precious as she tackles with her second pregnancy whilst dealing an invitation to enroll in an alternative school in the hopes her life can head in a new direction. Bolstered by exceptional performances from its two female stars, Precious has become widely known to have left audiences “tearful, shaken and dazed with pity and terror.”

“Precious” earnt 6 nominations at the Academy Awards with a win for Mo’Nique as Best Supporting Actress, whilst Geoffrey Fletcher won for Best Adapted Screenplay, becoming the first African-American to win a screenplay award at the Oscars.

Pressure

1976Horace OvéFilm15

Known as Britain’s first black feature film, Pressure tells the story of Tony, a bright young black man who finds himself struggling with his identity as he is torn between his immigrant family and fitting in with white society. This hard hitting and honest document of the plight of disenchanted black youths in the 1970s uses both actors and non-actors from the streets of London.

In 2017, The Telegraph ranked Pressure as the 42nd greatest British film of all time.

Queen & Slim

2019Melina MatsoukasFilm15

From a story written by James Frey and Lena Waithe, Melina Matsoukas (in her feature directorial debut) directs this romantic road crime drama fuelled by a passion for love and a passion of anger. The film follows the titular characters, Queen & Slim, from their first date to a run in with a police officer that changes their lives forever forcing them to go on the run. “Queen & Slim” is a stylish, powerful and provocative tale layered with timely, thoughtful subtext. The characters journey leads them on a path that is an inverse of the historical Underground Railroad, displaying its view on the continuing backwards state of a Nation.

The film electrifyingly unites Black-British talent Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya for the first time.

Sankofa

1993Haile GerimaFilm15

Centered on the Atlantic slave trade, “Sankofa” uses the main character of Mona to show how the African perception of identity included recognizing one’s roots and “returning to one’s source”. The word, “Sankofa” is derived from Ghanaian Akan language which means to “go back, look for and gain wisdom.” The film and direction from Gerima shows the importance of not having people of African descent drift far away from their African roots.

“Sankofa” is listed as one of the 500 Utterly Essential Movies to Cultivate Great Taste in Cinema by professors of Film Studies at Harvard University, under the heading of “the most essential films in the history of world cinema, 1980-2000.”

Image from Paramount Pictures and Pathé.

Selma

2014Ava DuVernayFilm12

Based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights march, Selma follows the actions of James Bevel, Hosea Williams, John Lewis and Martin Luther King Jr. Released in time to honour of the 50th Anniversary of the march, director Ava DuVernay received critical acclaim for her directing and actor David Oyelowo for his stirring performance as Martin Luther King Jr.

The film received numerous accolades, universal acclaim and listed on many critics’ top ten lists.

Sitting in Limbo

2018Boots RileyFilm15

Based on the true accounts of Anthony Bryan, “Sitting in Limbo” tells Bryan’s story, how he lived and work in Britain for 50 years and then suddenly detained and almost deported. Bryan’s brother has translated his story in a feature-length drama that brings home the impact of the Windrush Scandal. We follow Bryan, someone who had never been in trouble with the law, told he can no longer work, before being arrested in his London home and detained for five weeks before being booked on a plane to Jamaica, a country he hadn’t visited since he was 8 years old.

Actor Patrick Robinson, who plays Bryan in the drama stated, “when I read the script, I was in tears easily halfway through and blubbing at the end, knowing that I wanted to be involved in this piece, because it made me feel.” Sitting in Limbo airs on the BBC, June 8th 2020.

Sorry to Bother You

2018Boots RileyFilm15

This unique American black-comedy drama is the directorial debut of Boots Riley. The film follows a young black telemarketer who adopts a white accent to succeed at his job who is then swept into a corporate conspiracy where he must choose between profit or joining his activist friends.

“Sorry to Bother You” received praise for its leads, LaKeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson, and its concept, as well as Riley’s screenplay and direction. Earning awards from the National Board of Review and the Independent Spirit Awards, this is a film that will surprise you.

Soundtrack for a Revolution

2009Dan Sturman and Bill GuttentagDocumentaryUnrated

“Soundtrack” follows the story of the Civil Rights Movement and the struggles fought by young African-American activists using the power of music. Throughout the documentary, directors Sturman and Guttentag use contemporary artists to interpret the music and messages of the Civil Rights Movement.

The film garnered numerous nominations including Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards and Best Documentary Screenplay from the Writers Guild of America.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

2019Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti and Rodney RothmanFilmPG

Academy Award and Golden Globe winning animated feature, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”, follows the story of African-American teenager Miles Morales as he discovers he is the new Spider-Man and encounters various forms of the iconic hero from different dimensions. Praised for its vibrant and stunning animation, that has colour “oozing out of every frame”, the film is highly regarded as creating a new type of “hero” for a new generation. This standalone entry won the hearts of its audiences with its iconic and emotional tagline of, “Anyone can wear the mask.”

“Into the Spider-Verse” has ushered in a new age of storytelling through animation. This feature was the first non-Disney or Pixar film to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in nearly 10 years. The Critics at New York Magazine listed it at #9 on their list of the best films of the decade.

Strong Island

2017Yance FordDocumentaryPG-13

Strong Island is a true-crime documentary that centres on the murder of this film directors’ (Yance Ford) brother, William. The 24-year-old African-American teacher was killed by 19-year-old, white mechanic, Mark P. Reilly who claimed self-defence and was declined indictment due to an all-white jury.

The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017 and received a Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Documentary and was Academy Award-nominated for Best Documentary in 2018. It can be seen on Netflix.

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One

1968William GreavesDocumentary12

Known as an experimental documentary, “Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One” is shot and presented in the style of a cinema vérité documentary. The film attempts to capture and examine “pure reality” unhindered by the presence of cameras. It has become memorable for the layers of metatextual storytelling: that of a documentary inside a documentary inside a documentary. The film developed cult status and caught the attention of actor, Steve Buscemi and director, Steven Soderbergh, who managed to secure distribution and financing the film and a sequel from Greaves.

In 2015, the US Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry finding it, “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.”

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross

2013Henry Louis Gates Jr.Documentary12

This sweeping six-part documentary series chronicles the African-American experience, from the transatlantic origins of the slave trade to the re-election and second inauguration of President Barack Obama. The instalments explore the evolution of the African-American people, as well as the multiplicity of cultural institutions, political strategies, religious and social perspectives that have been developed. The series has been hailed as “detailed” and “epic” with a “tapestry like richness of interwoven stories and ideas.”

The documentary won a Peabody Award for excellence on television, radio and the internet and also received an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding News/Information.

The Black List: Volume 1

2008Timothy Greenfield-SandersDocumentaryPG-13

Journalist Elvis Mitchell interview 22 African-American leaders, ranging from athletes to academics to politicians, social activists and artists. The series provides a portfolio of living portraits providing a unique glimpse into the zeitgeist of Black America and redefining the traditional notions of a “Blacklist”.

The Black List: Volume 1 won the NAACP Spirit Award in 2009 for Best Documentary.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

2015Stanley Nelson Jr.Documentary15

Using a combination of archival footage, interviews with surviving Panthers and FBI agents, this documentary tells the story of the revolutionary black organization known as the Black Panther Party. Taking several years to complete, director Nelson interviewed over 50 people, with only 30 making it into the final cut. Due to the Freedom of Information Act, infamous wiretraps of the Black Panthers could never be accessed, despite attempts by the documentary crew.

Much of the archival footage used in the film has never been publicly broadcast before, to prevent a misportrayal of the party, the crew spent much time and effort locating and digitizing obscure resources.

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

2011Göran OlssonDocumentary12

Examining the Black Power movement in America, Swedish journalists and filmmakers gathered footage they recorded between the years 1967-1975 to tell the story of activists, artists and leaders central to the movement. Divided into nine sections, the film focsuses on several topics relvent to the movements including the Opposition to US involvement in Vietman, the Black Panther Party, COINTELPRO and the War on Drugs. With a combination of past and contemporary voices, it has been noted that: “the prominence of music artists rather than political activists who provide commentary throughout the film is ‘a sign of how African-American culture has shifted’.”

Photo by Warner Bros/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

The Color Purple

1985Steven SpielbergFilm15

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel of the same name by Alice Walker, the film tells the story of a young African-American girl named Celie Harris. It shows the problems African-American women faced during the early 20th Century, including domestic violence, incest, paedophilia, poverty, racism and sexism. Celie is transformed as she finds her self-worth through the help of two strong female companions. Known for its unbelievably commanding performances from Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Desreta Jackson, Margaret Avery and Danny Glover, “The Color Purple” is widely known as a cinematic classic.

The film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Whoopi Goldberg won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama.

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

2017David FranceDocumentary15

Investigated by Victoria Cruz, this documentary looks into the 1992 death of transgender legend, Marsha P. Johnson, whose body was found floating in the Hudson River. Originally ruled out as suicide, the feature looks into the community majority who believed she was murdered. This investigation has been hailed for its, “illumination of the persistant discrimination that exists today, and the bonds of community designed to counter it”. This documentary can be seen on Netflix.

The Hate U Give

2018George Tillman Jr.Film12

After witnessing an unlawful police shooting, high school student Starr finds herself caught in a series of events and fallouts that place her on a path of leadership and uprising in an ever increasing public role. With a breakout lead performance from Amada Stenberg, “The Hate U Give”, proves there is more to the young adult film genre than just fantasy and romance. Based on the young adult novel of the same name, this feature has been praised as an “excellent adaptation” held together by a “nuanced lead performance.”

Amanda Stenberg was nominated and won numerous accolades including the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

2019Joe TalbotFilm15

Telling the real-life story of Jimmie Fails, (Fails stars as himself and also co-wrote the film), this feature follows “King Jimmie” and his efforts as a young Black man as he tries to reclaim his childhood home in a gentrified neighbourhood of San Francisco. “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” is an immensely beautiful and moving tale that challenges the viewer and asks what it really means to belong somewhere. With some of the best cinematography in recent years and an achingly stunning musical score from Emile Mosseri, the film truly soars, and within the first 5 minutes shows us how special the voices of Black storytellers can be.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2019 and won awards for Best Directing and a Special Jury Prize for Creative Collaboration. It has personally become one of my most cherished cinematic experiences.

The Last Tree

2019Shola AmooFilm15

This British drama follows the story of Femi, growing up with his white foster mother in rural Lancashire, and his eventual return to London to live with his birth mother. The feature tracks Femi’s struggles as he is tested between his English upbringing and African heritage. This leads him on an unforgettable journey of self-identity and discovery throughout the various stages of his life. The Last Tree has been praised as “an understated yet profoundly moving tale.”

In December 2019 it was included as one of Time Out’s best films of 2019. At the British Independent Film Awards, Sam Adewunmi won Most Promising Newcomer and Ruthxjiah Bellenea received Best Supporting Actress.

The Learning Tree

1969Gordon ParksFilmPG

This drama follows the life of Newt Winger, a teenager growing up in 1920s Kansas, and chronicles his journey into manhood marked by tragic events. Based on the 1963 semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by director Gordon Parks, this was the first film directed by an an African-American person for a major American film studio.

In 1989, “The Learning Tree” was one of the first 25 films selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry for being, “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.”

The Story of Lovers Rock

2011Menelik ShabazzDocumentary12

Lovers Rock, often known as “romantic reggae ”, is a uniquely black British sound that developed in the late 70s and 80s against a backdrop of riots, racial tension and sound systems. This film sheds light on a forgotten period of British music, social and political history, and the impact that music was making in bridging the cultural gap that polarized the times.

“The Story of Lovers Rock” was one of the highest grossing documentaries in UK cinemas.

The Stuart Hall Project

2013John AkomfrahDocumentary12

Using a montage of documentary footage, the British film traces the work of cultural theorist, Stuart Hall. Regarded as on of the founding figures of the New Left and a key architect in the emergance of Cultural Studies in Britain, thsi feature provides an “absorbing account” of Hall’s pioneering work. Using the music of Miles Davis purposefuly throughout the piece, director Akomfrah uses his work to help tell the narrative of Hall theorizing black British identity construction as a lead cinematic theme.

Known for his use of intertextuality, archival manipulation and a focus on postcolonial and diasporic discourse in Britain, John Akomfrah’s filmography is described as “a strongly personal work”.

The Watermelon Woman

1996Cheryl DunyeFilm15

Written, edited and directed by Cheryl Dunye, “The Watermelon Woman” stars Dunye as Cheryl, a young black lesbian working a day job in a video store while trying to make a film about a black actress from the 1930s. This was the first feature film directed by a black lesbian and is considered a landmark in New Queer Cinema. Praised across the board, the film, “lets you find your own way to its central message about cultural history and the invisibility of those shunted to the margins.”

“The Watermelon Woman” won the Teddy Award for Best Feature Film at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Time: The Kalief Browder Story

2017Jenner FrustDocumentaryPG-13

This six-part miniseries documents the story of Kalief Browder, a Bronx high school student who was imprisoned for 3 years, 2 of which were in solitary confinement. Kalief Browder was not even convicted of a crime. He was accused at 16 years old of stealing a backpack, and his family were unable to afford his bail, set at $900. Described by Time as “one of the most devastating documents we have ever seen. It seems impossible to watch this and not take action”.

Using the experiences of Browder to indict a whole system, the film never “loses the sight of the man at the center of the story, who endured a tragedy as unforgettable as it is American.” This documentary series can be seen on Netflix.

To Sir, with Love

1967James ClavellFilmPG

Starring the legendary powerhouse, Sidney Poitier, “To Sir, with Love,” is a British drama film that deals with social and racial issues in an inner-city school that is also based on E.R. Braithwaite’s autobiographical novel of the same name. What really makes the film such an enjoyable delight is the allegorical nature of Poitier’s character. He manages to portray the real person with ease, whilst at the same time, “embodying everything there is to know about morality, respect and integrity.”

To Sir, with Live is “a very well made and poignant drama” that places London’s East End at the forefront, onscreen.

Uncorked

2020Prentice PennyFilm15

“Uncorked” tells the contemporary story of a young man who upsets his father when he pursues his dream of becoming a master sommelier instead of joining the family barbecue business. Travelling to Europe, the film tracks main character Elijah’s struggles as he deals with educational, financial and family problems in his newfound home and back across the ocean.

Recently released on Netlfix, “Uncorked” has been said that, like a good wine, once you let the film breathe, “its heartfelt tenderness will yield a sweet time.”

Us

2018Jordan PeeleFilm15

Jordan Peele’s second directorial feature follows a family who are attacked by a mysterious family of doppelgängers. “Us” is steeped in cultural themes and interpretations but most importantly displays an inventive and ambitious take on Black horror cinema. Creating contemporary iconography through costume and dialogue, Peele’s second cinematic outing’s greatest strength is pointing out the effects of classism and marginalization. These themes are exquisitely summed up by the main antagonist with the films most iconic line, “We’re Americans”.

“Us” became a critical and commercial success, receiving praise for Peele’s screenplay and direction, aswell as the musical score and Nyongo’s captivating dual lead performances.

Watchmen

2019Damon LindelofTelevision18

HBO’s “Watchmen” is not a traditional superhero drama. Focusing on the events surrounding racist violence and the widely known Black Wall Street massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921, this limited series constructs itself on layers of cultural context with a host of complex characters that create an identity of its own. Academy Award winner Regina King stars as Angela Abar aka,“Sister Night” who investigates and discovers secrets in Tulsa as she tackles white supremacy. “Watchmen” has been specifically praised for its portrayal of race relations in the deep South of America, and received numerous accolades on its representation of the Black LGBTQ community and its translation into the genre. Specifically, in a black & white episode that is unlike anything audiences of the genre have commented on seeing before.

Consisting of 9 episodes only, HBO’s “Watchmen” has won many awards, most notably the American Film Institute Award for TV Show of the Year and the GLAAD Award for Outstanding Individual Episode.

Watermelon Man

1970Melvin Van PeeblesFilm15

Set in the 1960s this American comedy tells the story of an extremely bigoted white insurance salesman who wakes up one morning to find that he has become black. Inspired by Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”, and John Howard Griffin’s autobiographical “Black Like Me”, the films commentary and satire still remain incredibly relevant today.

Director Van Peebles, wrote and performed the film’s soundtrack, which spawned the single, “Love, That’s America”. In 2011, the single received much mainstream attention when videos set to the song, featuring footage of Occupy Wall Street became viral.

Waves

2019Trey Edward ShultsFilm15

Set to a pulse pounding soundtrack and the vibrant landscape of South Florida, “Waves”, traces the emotional journey of a suburban family as they navigate love, forgiveness and the coming together in the afternath of an extremely tragic loss. Structured like a wave itself, the film builds towards heightened tensions, explodes and simmers. “Waves”, focuses on the viewpoints of the families two children with Shultz defining the films three acts with a shift in camera and screen ratios, shifting perspectives on what it takes to achieve, “the American Dream.”

The film has been praised significantly for its cinematography, direction and performances, most notably an incredibly emotional turn from Sterling K. Brown.

West Indies

1979Med HondoFilmUnrated

Adopted from a novel titled, “Les Negriers” (The Slavers) written by Daniel Boukman, director Med Hondo crafted a highly regarded landmark film in the history of African cinema. With a lavish budget of $1.35 million, this Algerian-Mauritanian French-language drama film was one of the biggest budgeted African films ever to be made. Set within the backdrop of colonial West Indies under French Imperialism, the film follows the stories of the inhabitants of a French owned slave ship.

With incredible sets and mesmerising musical sequences, West Indies provides an exhilarating cinema experience. “The time for Med Hondo to be widely recognised as a visionary filmmaker, and for West Indies to enter the canon as one of the most vital screen musicals is long overdue.” – Philip Concannon, BFI.

What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire?

2018Roberto MinerviniDocumentaryUnrated

During the summer of 2017, a string of brutal killings of black men in the American South sent shockwaves across the country. This documentary is a meditation on the state of race in America, and paints an intimate portrait of the lives of those who struggle for justice, for dignity and for survival. The feature displays engaging discourse between children, parents, business owners and the emergence of black leaders advocating resource equality and support.

This piece of work showcases the demand to end systemic racism facilitating the continued murder of non-white Americans.

When They See Us

2019Ava DuVernayTelevision15

This 4-part miniseries is based on events of the 1989 Central Park Jogger case. It follows the families and lives of the five male suspects who were falsely accused and prosecuted on charges related to the rape and assault of a woman in Central Park, NYC. Director, Ava DuVernay, lays out the harrowing events endured by the now known Exonerated Five, whilst challenging viewers to reconsider what it means to find justice in America.

Considered as one of the worst cases of systemic racism in recent US history, When They See Us is available to see on Netflix.

Who Killed Malcolm X?

2020Rachel Dretzin and Phil BertelsenDocumentary12

Examining the work of Washington, D.C. historian and tour guide, Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, this documentary traces the investigation carried out by Abdur-Rahman into the death of Malcolm X, that has spanned the last 30 years. In this series, convicted assassin Talmadge Hayer states that his four co-conspirators; Benjamin Thomas, Leon Davis, William X, and man by the name of Wilbur or Kinly, were all from the Nation of Islam mosque in Newark, NJ. This miniseries is now on Netflix.

Whose Streets?

2017Sabaah FolayanDocumentary15

“Whose Streets?” follows the Ferguson uprising in Missouri in response to the killing of Michael Brown. This documentary is hailed as showing “a raw, true and moving document of events fresh in the country’s memory, but never before laid as bare as they are here.” The film focuses on several main characters intimately involved with this activism.

This documentary was a nominee for Critics’ Choice and Gotham Independent Film Awards.

Young Soul Rebels

1991Isaac JulienFilm18

For his first narrative film, director Isaac Julien tells various stories that examine interactions between youth cultural movements during the long hot summer of 1977 in London. “Young Soul Rebels” is known for its unflinching depiction of social, sexual, political and cultural tensions between skinheads, punks and soulboys and the boiling point they reach following the murder of a local black gay man.

Its striking portrait of the UK in the late 1970s garnered this feature the Cannes Critics’ Week prize and huge praise for its soulful soundtrack.

Get To Know Emerging Designer Melitta Baumeister
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