Skin color still means exclusion, pain, division. This fact is shown by the recent events in the USA, related to the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Tony McDade.
The brutality with which these crimes were committed raises another alarm that there is an urgent need for racial justice and peaceful coexistence. Large-scale protests against racism and police brutality, as well as civic unrest, have led to a nation that can no longer close its eyes and ignore the consequences of a long history of racism and gender-based violence. And the need to educate people about the long and continuous struggle for racial justice is extremely important.
There are countless books on these topics that are worth reading, as well as other resources, such as movies and documentaries, that have a lot to show.
Below is a short list of films – made by Ashley Clark, Director of Film Programs at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, along with her colleague Jesse Trussell – that could help to better understand this topic in the current context.
“The Murder of Fred Hampton” (1971)
This documentary tells the story of an American activist, leader of the political party “Black Panther”, who was assassinated, at the age of 21, by the FBI and the Chicago police. He has gone down in history as one of the most inspiring speakers of the 20th century.
It’s a film that takes you back to the way black protests were suppressed and people were killed and shows how this has been repeated. It’s not a Netflix movie, it’s not an easy movie, it’s a movie with a limited cast and a lot of history about people of color.
The movie can be viewed on Amazon Prime Video and on the Films for Action website.
“Blacks Britannica” (1978)
The film “Blacks Britannica”, commissioned by the PBS TV channel in Boston in 1978, analyzes racism through the eyes of a working-class black British and includes interviews with several black activists. It is an American film, but was heavily censored in the US and banned in the UK.
The movie can be watched on YouTube.
Handsworth Songs (1986)
There are a lot of films from the ’70s and’ 80s that are true documentaries about civil unrest and police brutality in the UK. One of the key documentaries is “Handsworth Songs”, directed by John Akomfrah and Black Audio Film Collective. The film is described as a free form of documentary used in the 1985 protests in the Handsworth district of Birmingham, England, to analyze the widespread tensions in the country.
“Do the Right Thing” (1989)
The film begins as a kind of comedy, in a quiet setting, on the hottest day of the year. It continues with quarrels and ends with mass riots started by Mookie (Spike Lee), who throws an empty box of juice on the window after Radio Rahim (Bill Nunn) is strangled by the police.
“What’s very interesting is that the comments in this film show that people care more about the destruction of property than the loss of human lives, which is true today, if we think about it,” said Ashley Clark. . It is a precious film also because it focuses on a problem that lasts over time and is not easy to solve.
The film is available on YouTube, Vudu, Google Play and Amazon Prime Video.
“Malcolm X” (1992)
Going back to director Spike Lee, the film “Malcolm X”, which earned an Oscar nomination for Denzel Washington, is one in which the director seems to be exaggerating. But as racial tensions increase, the film gains more and more power. It is a film with everything, in which Denzel Washington creates a strong and emotional image. The movie is available on Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video.
The film is a solid documentary that takes us to the beginnings of America’s detention system. The production follows the path from the mass imprisonment of people of color to the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865. The film can be viewed on the Netflix platform.
“Whose Streets?” (2017)
This documentary is relatively in tune with the current “Black Lives Matter” protests. Its directors, Sabaah Foloyan and Damon Davis, who actively participated in the demonstrations, sketched a real version of what it means to build a community.
The movie can be watched on Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Vudu.