Thank you to Film & Media Studies Professors Jeremy Moss and Sonia Misra, for compiling a stellar list of films celebrating and affirming Black lives and liberation. Films from this list are given below, broken up into two sections. The first box includes films that are available through the streaming services that the Library subscribes to. The second box, below the first, lists films from the list that the Library does not currently have access to, but which are available either freely through the Internet, or through a personal subscription service like Netflix or Amazon Prime.
A profile of activists, police officers, community leaders and gang affiliates who work tirelessly to hold Baltimore together, especially in the aftermath of the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody.
Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Lebron Jameѕ... Nowadays, the most fashionable heroes of pop culture are black men. Their love of style is not only a status symbol or just a vapid superficial trend, it is rooted in a deep American cultural history, as flamboyant as it is political, that of Black Dandyism. This movement recalls more than a century of cultural adventures, at the crossroads of fashion, arts and major social issues.
White Americans have always stereotyped African Americans. But the rigid definitions of "Blackness" that African Americans impose on each other, Riggs claims, have also been devastating. Is there an essential Black identity? Is there a litmus test defining the real Black man and true Black woman?
This cinematic essay posits science fiction (with tropes such as alien abduction, estrangement, and genetic engineering) as a metaphor for the Pan-African experience of forced displacement, cultural alienation, and otherness.
Weaving together sequences of hair-braiding salons in Ghana, voice-over of Oprah rhapsodizing brown-skinned dolls and animated clips of signature hairstyles, Me Broni Ba (My White Baby) is an artfully composed, thought-provoking work that investigates the fraught relationship between images of beauty and power.
Structured as an allegorical fable set between 1949 and 1970, THE NINE MUSES is comprised of nine overlapping musical chapters that mix archival material with original scenes. Together, they form a stylized, idiosyncratic retelling of the history of mass migration to post-war Britain through the suggestive lens of the Homeric epic.
On the night of December 2, 1966, Clarke and a tiny crew convened in her apartment at the Hotel Chelsea to make a film. There, for twelve straight hours they filmed the one-and-only Jason Holliday as he spun tales, sang, donned costumes and reminisced about good times and bad behavior as a gay hustler, sometime houseboy and aspiring cabaret performer. The result is a mesmerizing portrait of a remarkable, charming and tortured man, who is by turns hilarious and heartbreaking
Women are the focus but not the object of Trinh T. Minh-ha's influential first film, a complex visual study of the women of rural Senegal. Through a complicity of interaction between film and spectator, REASSEMBLAGE reflects on documentary filmmaking and the ethnographic representation of cultures.
An homage to the inspirational African-American civil rights leader, SEVEN SONGS FOR MALCOLM X collects testimonies, eyewitness accounts and dramatic reenactments to tell the life, legacy, loves, and losses of Malcolm X.
James Byrd, Jr. was murdered in Jasper, Texas. A black family man, Byrd had been severely beaten by three white men, chained to their truck, and dragged three miles through predominately black parts of the county. This racially motivated killing shook the country, and revealed the intense hate that still lies just beneath the surface of our society. Instead of following the story in a typical American media fashion, Akerman allows the story to slowly unfold on its own. Long, panning shots set the stage, creating the world of Jasper. Patient interviews reveal the thoughts and emotions of the local townspeople. Akerman's access to their lives, including being allowed to film Byrd's funeral, allows her to tell the tale in a pensive and beautiful fashion.
In his one-of-a-kind fiction/documentary hybrid, director William Greaves presides over a beleaguered film crew in New York's Central Park, leaving them to try to figure out what kind of movie they're making.
A portrait of African-Americans in New Orleans struggling to maintain their unique cultural identity and to find social justice. Shot in very sharp black and white, the film is focused on Judy, trying to keep her family afloat and save her bar before it's snapped up by speculators; Ronaldo and Titus, two brothers growing up surrounded by violence and with a father in jail; Kevin, trying to keep the glorious local traditions of the Mardi Gras Indians alive; and the local Black Panthers, trying to stand up against a new, deadly wave of racism.
Directed by Spike Lee, this intimate, heart-rending portrait of New Orleans in the wake of the destruction tells the heartbreaking personal stories of those who endured this harrowing ordeal and survived to tell the tale of misery, despair and triumph.
The film follows the exploits of an escaped prisoner who seeks refuge in the town of Tatesville, Georgia, by passing himself off as a Reverend. He is joined in town by a fellow criminal, and the pair scheme to swindle the phony reverend's congregation of their offerings.
When Adelaide Norris, the black radical founder of the Woman's Army, is mysteriously killed, a diverse coalition of women - across all lines of race, class, and sexual preference - emerges to blow the System apart.
Celie is a Southern black woman who lives in fear of her domineering, abusive husband. She learns to stick up for herself after befriending the strong-willed Sofia, who pays a price for her fierce independent streak.
Anthropologist Hess Green, who is stabbed with an ancient ceremonial dagger by his unstable assistant, endowing him with the blessing of immortality, and the curse of an unquenchable thirst for blood. When the assistant's beautiful and outspoken wife Ganja (Marlene Clark) comes searching for her vanished husband, she and Hess form an unexpected partnership. Together, they explore just how much power there is in the blood.
Over the course of one hot summer, a group of children in the decaying rural South must confront a tangle of difficult choices. An ambitiously constructed, elegantly photographed meditation on adolescence, the first full-length film by director David Gordon Green features remarkable performances from an award-winning ensemble cast.
Fed up with her abusive family situation, lack of school prospects and the "boys' law" in the neighborhood, Marieme starts a new life after meeting a group of three free-spirited girls. She changes her name, her style, drops out of school and starts stealing to be accepted into the gang. When her home situation becomes unbearable, Marieme seeks solace in an older man who promises her money and protection. Realizing this sort of lifestyle will never result in the freedom and independence she truly desires, she finally decides to take matters into her own hands.
Mignon Dupree, a Black woman studio executive who appears to be white, and Ester Jeeter, an African woman who is the singing voice for a white Hollywood star, are forced to come to grips with a society that perpetuates false images as status quo.
Employed at a slaughterhouse, the protagonist is suffering from the emotional side effects of his bloody occupation to such a degree that his entire life unhinges. His refusal to become involved in the similarly destructive, but human-focused occupations of his more affluent friends and acquaintances becomes the odd obstacle to the family’s well being
In this warmhearted portrait of the French harbor city that gives the film its name, fate throws young African refugee Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) into the path of Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms), a well-spoken bohemian who works as a shoeshiner. With innate optimism and the unwavering support of his community, Marcel stands up to officials doggedly pursuing the boy for deportation.
The story of a marriage of two remarkable people, both at a crossroads in their lives. Sara Rogers, a Black professor of philosophy, is embarking on an intellectual quest to understand "ecstasy" just as her painter husband Victor sets off on a more earthy exploration of joy.
When the Congo declared its independence from Belgium in 1960, Lumumba became the first Prime Minister of the newly independent state. Called "the politico of the bush" by journalists of the day, he became a lightning rod of Cold War politics as his vision of a united Africa gained him powerful enemies in Belgium and the U.S.
Directed by Spike Lee, and featuring an all-star cast, this film tells the story of Malcolm X, who through his conversion to Islam, found the strength to rise up from a criminal past to become an influential civil rights leader.
A moving and transcendent look at three defining chapters in the life of Chiron, a young man growing up in Miami. His epic journey to adulthood, as a shy outsider dealing with difficult circumstances, is guided by support, empathy and love from the most unexpected places.
Pierce Mundy works at his parents' South Central dry cleaners with no prospects for the future and his childhood buddies in prison or dead. With his best friend just getting out of jail and his brother busy planning a wedding to a snooty upper-middle-class black woman, Pierce navigates his conflicting obligations while trying to figure out what he really wants in life
Despite a political rivalry between their families, Kena and Ziki resist and remain close friends, supporting each other to pursue their dreams in a conservative society. When love blossoms between them, the two girls will be forced to choose between happiness and safety.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s historical struggle to secure voting rights for all people. A dangerous and terrifying campaign that culminated with an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1964.
"The unforgettable true story chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. Director Ava DuVernay's "Selma" tells the story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history."--Written by Miss W J Mcdermott on IMDb.com.
A young hustler's aimless pleasure seeking turns to radicalism after witnessing the beating of a black revolutionary by two white cops. Driven to a state of blind rage, Sweetback takes brutal revenge on the cops, forcing him into a desperate life on the run.
A video store clerk and fledgling filmmaker, Cheryl becomes obsessed with the "most beautiful mammy," a character she sees in a 1930s movie. Determined to find out who the actress she knows only as the "Watermelon Woman" was and make her the subject of a documentary, she starts researching and is bowled over to discover that not only was Fae Richards (Lisa Marie Bronson) a fellow Philadelphian but also a lesbian.
Sylvia Landry (Evelyn Preer) takes a fundraising trip to Boston in hopes of raising money to keep a Southern school for impoverished black children open to the public. She then meets the warmhearted Dr. Vivian (Charles D. Lucas), who falls in love with Sylvia and travels with her back to the South. Their romance eventually leads to revelations about her family's past and her own mixed-race, European ancestry.
Part film, part baptism, BLACK MOTHER brings us on a spiritual journey through Jamaica. Soaking up its bustling metropolises and tranquil countryside, director Khalik Allah introduces us to a succession of vividly rendered souls who call this island home. Their candid testimonies create a polyphonic symphony, set against a visual prayer of indelible portraiture. Thoroughly immersed in both the sacred and the profane, BLACK MOTHER channels rebellion and reverence into a deeply personal ode informed by Jamaica’s turbulent history but unfolding in the urgent present.
Note: Available for free via The Criterion Channel.
Agnès Varda turns her camera on an Oakland demonstration against the imprisonment of activist and Black Panthers cofounder Huey P. Newton. In addition to evincing Varda’s fascination with her adopted surroundings and her empathy, this perceptive short is also a powerful political statement.
Mobilizing a treasure trove of 16mm footage shot by Swedish journalists who came to the US drawn by stories of unrest and revolution, The Black Power Mixtape showcases many of the leaders of the Black Power Movement.
Criminal Queers visualizes a radical trans/queer struggle against the prison industrial complex and toward a world without walls. Remembering that prison breaks are both a theoretical and material practice of freedom, this film imagines what spaces might be opened up if crowbars, wigs, and metal files become tools for transformation.
Note: Available for free on Vimeo. Password is loverevolution.
Released in 1986 as a cultural response to social unrest in Birmingham and London in October 1985, looking at the way events unfolded, the two deaths (that of black woman Cynthia Jarrett and white policeman Keith Blakelock), and the subsequent media reaction.
Christine Choy and Cynthia Maurizio offer a rare look at the degradation faced by women in prison, interviewing women who suffer daily within a system that disregards their humanity and neglects their basic needs.
The award-winning documentary follows the story of Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a 73 year-old Black transgender woman who has been fighting for the rights of trans women of color for the past forty years.
American 2017 true-crime documentary film directed by Yance Ford. The film centers on the April 1992 murder of Ford's brother William, a 24-year-old African-American teacher in New York, who was killed by Mark P. Reilly, a 19-year-old white chop shop mechanic.
Note: Available for free through Netflix through link.
Atlantic is a Sea of Bones is a short film drawing from the Lucille Clifton poem of the same name that follows Egyptt LaBejia, an NYC based performer through the 80s, 90s, and 2000's in NYC. The haunting and otherwordly film set to an original score by Geo Wythe features small every day acts of refusal, resistance, and existence—such as performance and self expression—that have a tremendous impact on the world. The film reveals how the historical and systemic violence, like the killing and policing of black queer and trans life, continue to haunt our contemporary landscapes and is inextricably linked to the ongoing AIDS epidemic and the black queer/trans spaces shaped so intimately by HIV/AIDS, including the spaces where we come together and make life together: public spaces and nightlife spaces.
Franco Rosso’s incendiary portrait of sound-system culture in 1980s South London follows a young dancehall DJ (Brinsley Forde, frontman of landmark British reggae group Aswad) as he pursues his musical ambitions, battling fiercely against the racism and xenophobia of employers, neighbors, police, and the National Front.
In a searing parody of American television and racial attitudes a young African American network executive, under pressure from his white boss, creates a minstrel show, hoping that it will fail and that he will be released from his network contract -- but the TV show becomes both a hit and the subject of much controversy.
Note: Only available on DVD through the F&M College Library.
In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee, a six-year-old girl exists on the brink of orphanhood. Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, she believes that the natural order is in balance with the universe until a fierce storm changes her reality.
Sembène, who was also an acclaimed novelist in his native Senegal, transforms a deceptively simple plot—about a young Senegalese woman who moves to France to work for a wealthy white family and finds that life in their small apartment becomes a prison, both figuratively and literally—into a complexly layered critique of the lingering colonialist mind-set of a supposedly postcolonial world.
A charmingly laid-back, socially incisive love story set in the heart of Louisiana. It’s there that a forbidden romance between an aspiring writer (Richard Romain) and an ambitious, college-bound woman (Tommye Myrick) lays bare the tensions between two black communities: the wealthy Creoles and the working-class descendants of slaves.
In 1902, a multigenerational family in the Gullah community on the Sea Islands off of South Carolina—former West African slaves who carried on many of their ancestors’ Yoruba traditions—struggle to maintain their cultural heritage and folklore while contemplating a migration to the mainland, even further from their roots.
As a multimedia audiovisual artwork, Lemonade relates the emotional journey of Beyoncé after her husband Jay-Z's infidelity in a generational and racial context through its music, lyrics, visuals and poetry.
A quixotic artist hypothesizes about why he feels bad when a mystery girl stands him up. The event prompts him to ask: what's the content of a momentary feeling? Is it the sum of your experiences? And, perhaps more importantly, are your experiences the sum of you?
American blaxploitation crime drama film directed by Gordon Parks Jr. and starring Ron O'Neal as Youngblood Priest, an African American pimp and cocaine dealer who is trying to quit the underworld drug business.
In this French New Wave-influenced fantasy-drama, two young lovers long to leave Dakar for the glamour and comforts of France, but their escape plan is beset by complications both concrete and mystical.
Vitalina plays a Cape Verdean woman who has travelled to Lisbon to reunite with her husband, after two decades of separation, only to arrive mere days after his funeral. Alone in a strange forbidding land, she perseveres and begins to establish a new life.
Note: You must pay $12 to rent this film through Grasshopper's virtual screening room. Rental period of three days.
The film examines the interaction between youth cultural movements during the late 1970s in the UK — namely skinheads, punks, and soulboys — along with the social, political, and cultural tensions between them.
Note: You must subscribe to BFI Player to watch this film.