By Jenise Jackson
Blog Content Contributor
Black History Month is upon us again. As a lover of all things black, I can’t think of a better time for me to indulge in films that celebrate black excellence and culture through different narratives. I encourage you to do the same, so here’s a list of films to get you started off for the month:
If you don’t plan to be in a theater once Black Panther is released on Feb. 16, what are you doing with your life? The first black superhero to be featured in mainstream American comics has finally received his own film and that should be celebrated. A nearly all-black cast with a black director made a film where the hero stands for black pride, dignity and hope for a better world. I could say more, but that should be enough to draw you in.
It’s almost hard for me to put into words the importance of this documentary. Simply titled after the 13th Amendment, the film discusses the connection between mass incarceration and the history of racial inequality in America. History has shown us that our criminal justice system has continually failed African-Americans. This film takes on the challenge of arguing that mass incarceration is a modern-day slavery system and I think it hits the nail on the head. 13th is definitely a timely piece of work from the amazing Ava DuVernay.
From Malcom X’s childhood to untimely death, Denzel Washington captivated the screen as he portrayed the legendary civil rights leader. Although the film happens to be a little over three hours long, watching it in its entirety is worth your time. I don’t know about anyone else, but I wasn’t taught anything about Malcolm X in grade school. Watching this film when I was younger was like a history lesson I never knew I needed. And as a side note, Denzel definitely deserved an Oscar for his work in this film but of course they snubbed my man (a hard eye roll).
The story of Oscar Grant III is unfortunately the ultimate reality for some young black men. It shouldn’t be a secret that black men have been murdered at the hands of the police too often for comfort. Most of these victims are just viewed as another headline instead of as a human being. They have families and aspirations, they are simply people whose lives have been stripped away from them by the people who are hired to protect them. This film allows you to understand that fact. If you’re anything like me, you’ll shed tears at the end of this film.
In my opinion, the blaxploitation films of the ’70s have true significance. Although they received backlash for portraying black characters as stereotypes, it was really the first time black actors had the opportunity to play heroes and be the main focus in films. Jackie Brown paid homage to those films and even featured prominent blaxploitation star Pam Grier in the title role. Once again, Grier was reminding women that they could be sexy and hold their own all while kicking butt. I believe she was another Oscar snub, but I won’t get into that (another hard eye roll).
Love & Basketball
If you were looking for a way to celebrate Black History Month and Valentine’s Day at the same time, I highly recommend this movie. The great thing about this film is that it portrays black love in a positive light. We see the two main characters fall in love as they share a passion for the game of basketball. It’s a coming-of-age story that everyone, not just athletes, can relate to.
Other Films To Consider:
- Dear White People
- I Am Not Your Negro
- The Black Power Mixtape
- Straight Outta Compton
Of course there are way too many films to list that would be perfect to watch that capture the essence of Black History Month. I hope this just gives you a great start. So grab some snacks, take a drink and soak up the beauty of blackness all month long.
Featured image by Jenise Jackson.