Black Lives Matter: 17 films to put on your watchlist
Ivan Radford | On 02, Jun 2020Reading time: 3 mins
Black Lives Matter protests have taken place across the US and UK this week, after the tragic death of George Floyd. There are a host of causes you can donate to in support of Black Lives Matter, from the cause’s official website, the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which pays bail for those who cannot afford it, or the George Floyd memorial fund, or, in the UK, the Stand Up to Racism and Kick It Out organisations or the Stephen Lawrence charitable trust, or all of the above.
It is also a time that people can educate themselves on racial inequality, systemic injustice, and police brutality, problems that are not just limited to America. Roger Ebert once described cinema as a machine that generates empathy. In that spirit, here are 12 films that hopefully may prove a useful starting point for you in your understanding and empathy of an incident that is far from isolated – a chance to listen to filmmaking voices that speak to experiences in the UK as well as the US.
Ava DuVernay presents a blistering indictment of US race relations with this urgent and timely documentary. This is currently available on YouTube for free
If Beale Street Could Talk
At once a starkly frank social drama, an exploration of individual and collective memory, and a celebration of love, Barry Jenkins’ lyrical masterpiece is a reminder the power of dignity and respect.
Ryan Coogler’s naturalistic retelling of real life events is powerful viewing, fuelled by a remarkable turn by Michael B. Jordan.
The Hard Stop
This documentary about the death of Mark Duggan in 2011, which sparked riots in Tottenham, is a vital watch.
The Hate U Give
This young adult drama based on Angie Thomas’ novel tells an important story with authenticity and heart.
Do the Right Thing
Smart, funny and electrifying, Spike Lee’s 1989 classic remains one of cinema’s greatest films about race relations.
Spike Lee’s uncomfortably entertaining comedy viciously skewers modern American politics with a hammer.
See You Yesterday
Stefon Bristol’s teenage time travel tale fuses sci-fi and social commentary to entertaining effect.
Boyz n the Hood
Released a year before the LA riots, John Singleton’s 1991 coming-of-age drama remains a prescient, heartbreaking tale of lost lives and potential.
Daveed Diggs’ 2019 gem manages to be a social commentary and a thrill-ride without making sacrifices on either side.
Monsters and Men
Reinaldo Marcus Green’s elegant triptych of race, trust and justice is an urgent yet understated directorial debut.
David Oyelowo is unrecognisable in Ava DuVernay’s stirring, powerful biopic of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Based on the acclaimed Broadway play, this hard-hitting drama stars Kerry Washington as the mother of a missing teenage boy who struggles to put the pieces together in a South Florida police station.
This Shudder original documentary delves into a century of genre films, tracing the untold history of Black Americans in Hollywood through their connection to horror. Featuring interviews with Jordan Peele, Tananarive Due, Keith David (The Thing), Tony Todd (Candyman), Rachel True (The Craft) and more.
I Am Not Your Negro
A soulful biopic and a powerful documentary, I Am Not a Negro is a tapestry of a determined struggle that hasn’t stopped, one that’s packed with vital observations for people the world over.
Samuel Beckett meets Spike Lee in this urgent, poetic play about two young men waiting for a better life.
A lot has changed in the 20-plus years since Rodney King was brutally lynched by police, sparking the LA riots but, in so many ways, nothing has. This powerful monologue, filmed by Spike Lee, gives a voice to him.