During Black History Month, Black narratives are openly shared. Movies have played a significant role in portraying the past and present of the Black experience and Black film has made it possible for Black people to share their stories in more ways than one. These films range from coming-of-age stories to the lives of Black leaders. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a great introduction into the versatility that Black film has to offer.
This movie is a coming-of-age story to be reckoned with. Ayanna is a 17 year old poet who is spending her last summer in Harlem before going to college. She meets Isaiah, a music producer in his 20s, and they hit it off instantly. The story follows the triumphs of Ayanna’s first serious relationship, as well as the hardships that young love brings. The decisions she makes and the problems she encounters speak to the difficulty many teens have with adjusting to adulthood.
Another coming-of-age film, Moonlight received rave reviews when it first came out and won the Academy Award for best picture. The movie follows the life of Chiron, a Black man who comes to terms with his sexuality and identity. The story is based on the book Black Boys Look Blue, a semi-autobiographical story by Tarell Alvin McCraney. Chiron’s story is documented in three phases of his life — Little, Chiron and Black. Each phase of his life is characterized by Chiron’s perception of masculinity and what others expect of him.
Burning Cane (2019)
This movie follows the lives of the female lead Helen, her son Daniel and local pastor Reverend Tillman. These two most prominent men in Helen’s life are alcoholics and display abusive behavior. Helen pushes her son to change his ways in the midst of her grandson Jeremiah being completely unaware of the hardships the family is facing. At the same time, Helen is more accommodating to Reverend Tillman, saving her sympathy for Daniel. As a whole, the movie explores the ways in which the veil of religion can be manipulative, and it challenges the audience's perception of the characters while also challenging them to reconsider their personal biases.The personalities of each character is revealed by what they do rather than what they say, with monologues and conversations playing in the background.
Hidden Figures (2017)
This iconic film gives an insight into the battle women in STEM face. Yet, this film more specifically highlights the challenges African American women have when seeking recognition in the industry. The true story follows three strong-willed women during the civil rights movement who use their voices to further their careers at NASA. The women’s story highlights the struggles of Black women coming together to complete a mission. It also focuses on the unity of women and their voices in history and the harsh reality of segregation; for example, the divides of seeing color rather than the person and their work within STEM-related fields. Hidden Figures shows feminism and the reality of how career women can be a force in a deeply divided society.
Just Mercy (2019)
This powerful story is about a well-known civil rights activist and attorney who fights the battle of injustice to free a wrongly convicted felony on death row. Michael B. Jordan, who plays the attorney Bryan Stevenson, cracks down on what truly happens within our nation’s broken legal system. Just Mercy begins with Stevenson heading down to Alabama to defend people who are wrongly convicted. Just Mercy highlights the profound and historical impact of what shaped the racial discrimination within the court system. Bryan Stevenson, who currently teaches at the New York University of Law, handles legal cases that challenge the impact of how racial discrimination affects people of minorities and their communities in society. His professional life represents his perspective on defending the innocent and how wrongdoings are discussed in the court system.
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019)
This film is for all documentary lovers. It highlights the strength and successful life of author Toni Morrison. This documentary portrays a glimpse into the author's life and overall summary on how her dedicated literature changed the world of reading. Morrison put African American women in the center of her works to teach readers about diversity. She dedicated her life to advocacy, and her words represent that. Toni Morrison’s strength was on trial throughout her life, but she used her writing to empower women of color and change people’s perspectives on how readers view the themes written throughout her books. Toni Morrison broke boundaries about race discrimination and has been recognized for many awards. Her highest honor was the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented to her in 2012. The Pieces I Am demonstrates the heartfelt life of a powerful woman and the prominent influence she has had on American literature.
By Aminah Jenkins, Staff Writer, and Laurelyn Ponder, Contributing Writer