Screen and Film School Brighton’s Student Blogger Lauren Louise turns the spotlight on to her top 5 ‘must-sees’ for this Black History Month and beyond.
In celebration of Black History Month, I thought it would be a brilliant opportunity to showcase a few of my favourite films and TV Shows telling stories of Black excellence. Below I have chosen a variety of stories that touch on different subjects and aspects of Black life, such as education systems, police brutality, P.C culture, justice systems and LGBTQ+ life. As a woman of colour, I thought it was important not only to choose stories of struggle and oppression, but stories of hope and joy, because as Black people we don’t just want stories of hardships and racial turmoil. This is why – despite their brilliance – I have not included the likes of Malcom X, Selma, When They See Us, The Help, Do The Right Thing and 12 Years A Slave. I wholeheartedly believe that blackness should be celebrated; that there is still an abundance of stories to be told and that we need to keep celebrating and encouraging new stories and diversity in film.
Dear White People (TV Show)
Dear White People follows a group of Black students as they attend the prestigious Ivy League, Winchester University which, despite being predominantly white, has a hall of Black minority students who are avid listeners of film student Sam White’s provocative Radio show ‘Dear White People’. This show is a political, sometimes satirical, take on what it means to grow up Black in the modern day, by tackling hard hitting topics with comedy and wit. This show is one of the few Black gems out there with well rounded Black characters, who don’t fit into small stereotypical boxes, and make meaningful complicated relationships with each other as they navigate adulthood. This Netflix show has flown under the radar for quite some time, despite garnering four seasons (and a movie) due to it’s great writing and some of the best cinematography in TV right now. Dear White People is one to watch.
A powerful drama following the real-life events of Harvard graduate Bryan Stevenson as he attempts to save a man, wrongfully convicted for murder, from death row. This movie holds a hopeful resilience that holds a spark of light for the American Justice System and the systemic racism Black people so regularly face. If you ever needed proof that one person’s voice can change the lives of many, this film is it.
Hidden Figures tells the story of the three Black women mathematicians behind the American astronaut John Glenn’s launch into orbit. This movie holds a lot of heart and is extremely gripping in it’s telling of the racial and gender discrimination they face at work. What really sells this movie is not only the amazing true story it tells, but the wonderful relationships between the three women played by Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae and Taraji P. Henson, who each face their own struggles of being a Black woman in the 1960s. This movie makes my top five list, because who doesn’t love seeing Black women succeed in all time periods?
2016’s Oscar winner for best picture, Moonlight, tells the story of Chiron, a young Black boy growing up in a drug-infested area of Miami. This movie follows Chiron through various phases of his life which is played brilliantly by three separate actors. Moonlight tells a beautifully nuanced story of strength and resilience in the most beautiful and visual way – no wonder it won best picture. Moonlight fills that ever gaping hole of representation and coming of age movies for queer Black boys everywhere and therefore deserves a place on this list.
The Hate U Give
A tear-jerking, heart-wrenching story following sixteen-year-old Starr Carter as she navigates life as a teenager, whilst walking the line between her predominantly white private school and underfunded crime infested community. This film hits hard on the painful fallout and long-lasting effects of police brutality when Starr witnesses her childhood friend shot by the police. The scenes from this movie are scarily similar to those in the media right now. If you watch any movie from this list, make it this one!
As aspiring filmmakers I think it’s important that we keep enriching ourselves with different cultures and stories outside of designated months, so that we can make real reflective pieces of art, inclusive of everybody. Film is one of the greatest mediums when it comes to starting uncomfortable conversations with each other and is something that should be ever-evolving, so hopefully next year this list will be outdated and filled with a whole new set of beautiful movies celebrating Black culture.