We live in a world where the only thing we get for free is our education. It is all around us for us to take whenever we want, on whatever subject we want, whether it’s reading articles, books, watching videos, admiring art or listening to music.
For me, I find I constantly learn from watching films about real life and real people. So in an attempt to pass on the education I have compiled a list of films that I believe will educate you if you feel disconnected or unaware of the reason behind the protests and demonstrations taking place around the world to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Hate U Give (2018)
(Available on Sky Movies and Now TV)
Based on the 2017 young adult novel of the same name, The Hate U Give tells the story of Starr (Amandla Stenberg), a young black girl from Garden Heights who is trying to find her place in a society. Starr attends a highly respected, and predominantly white, high school where she tries to fit in knowing she is different. She lives in a complicated world where her family are learning and growing whilst trying to heal from past events. One night changes everything for her and she has to make the decision of who she is going to be.
Every scene in this film is entirely relevant for the situations taking place around the world at the moment. I feel so much more aware of the position people have to try and live in thanks to this film, it’s brilliantly made and perfectly told with outstanding performances from everyone involved.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
(Available on Netflix and Amazon Prime)
12 Years a Slave is a biographical account of Solomon Northups (Chiwetel Ejiofor) life whilst he was working as a slave on the cotton plantations of Louisiana. After being tricked into the slave trade by two conmen in New York he becomes the property of slave traders and spends 12 years fighting to return to his wife and two children.
A powerful period drama based on true events and educating its audience of the reality of the slave trade from the 1800’s, 12 Years a Slave is an absolute masterpiece and deserves to be watched.
(Available on Sky Movies and Now TV)
Spike Lee’s 2018 historical crime drama follows Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), an African-American policeman from California, who successfully manages to infiltrate the Klu Klux Klan with the help of his white Jewish colleague Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver).
Set in the early 1970’s, BlackkKlansman showcases the level of racist acts that took place in the hands of the KKK, whilst highlighting the activists that took to the streets to fight for their freedom.
(Available on Netflix)
When two soldiers return home to Mississippi after World War II and both land jobs working on a farm they encounter multiple levels and acts of racism and have to learn to deal with their differences despite their similar past.
Absolutely jam packed with stunning performances and a career best from Mary J. Blige, Mudbound is an eyeopening drama telling a difficult story from multiple different sides.
Fruitvale Station (2013)
(Available on Netflix)
An intimate look at the last day of Oscar Grant III’s (Michael B. Jordan) life after an incident took place on the BART train on New Years Eve, 2008, resulting in a policeman shooting Oscar in the back. A story of love, family, friendship and injustice told beautifully through Ryan Coogler’s writing and direction.
Full of outstanding performances from both Jordan and his supporting cast, made up of Octavia Spencer as Oscar’s mother and Melonie Diaz as Oscar’s girlfriend.
Cooglar’s work, alongside the acting talent of Michael B. Jordan, is changing the film industry for the better with his inclusion of black stories and casting of African-American talent. His other works include Creed and Black Panther.
6. Hairspray (2007)
(Available on Amazon Prime)
Telling the story of Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonski), a young white girl with big dreams of becoming a dancer but who’s priorities change as she comes to realise the level of systemic racism within the entertainment industry. Full of inspiring songs telling the stories of the black community of Baltimore, Maryland in the 1960’s, Hairspray is surprisingly relevant today with terminology like ‘integration’ ‘checkerboard’ ‘negro day’ being regularly used throughout.
Queen Latifa gives a career best performance as Motormouth Maybelle, the mother of young black dancers who are trying to achieve an impossible goal of appearing as regulars on the Corny Collins Show, and gives a groundbreaking rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been”.
The following films are, unfortunately, not currently available on UK streaming platforms, however I highly recommend watching them if the opportunity arises.
I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
Documentary from writer James Baldwin of the story of race in modern America, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.
The biographical story of Harriet Tubman who fought her way across country to release her family from the binds of slavery. Starring Cynthia Erivo and Janelle Monae.
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis star in this stage to screen adaptation about working-class lives of African-Americans in 1950’s America.
The Help (2011)
Oscar winning drama based on the book of the same title, with a star studded cast including Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis and Emma Stone, telling the accounts of the lives of “The Help” during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.
Hidden Figures (2016)
During the 1970’s NASA space programme, Hidden Figures follows the lives and careers of three female African-American mathematicians as they face work place discrimination. Starring Taraji P. Hensen, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae.
The Colour Purple (1985)
Opera Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg star in this tale of a black Southern woman who struggles with her life living with her abusive father.
The historical drama telling the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s campaign to secure equal voting rights in 1960’s Alabama.
Malcom X (1992)
Spike Lee directs Denzel Washington in the biopic of the influential Black Nationalists leader’s life.
Katherine Bigelow directs this crime drama telling the story of the Detroit riots of 1967. Starring John Boyega, Anthony Mackie and Will Poulter.
Just Mercy (2019)
Michael B. Jordan and Jamiee Fox star in this courtroom drama about the civil rights defence attorney, Bryan Stevenson, who’s work included trying to free a wrongly convicted death row prisoner.
Queen & Slim (2019)
A ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ style drama starring Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith following a couples first date after a police officer wrongfully pulls them over.