For hundreds of years, Black people have had to fight globally for equality, equity, and liberation. This fight also manifested in the art realm, including film. The art of filmmaking has been around for over 100 years but was inaccessible to Black creators at its conception and for many years thereafter. For decades after the first film movements in Hollywood, Black people struggled to create their own stories while watching white, privileged filmmakers negatively portray Black people on the big screen. This dynamic began to change with the global rise of civil rights movements. Filmmakers such as Spike Lee, Julie Dash, Ousmane Sembène, and Safi Faye have used filmmaking to break down racial barriers, paving the way for future Black filmmakers to tell their stories and spread their messages around the world for all to see. For Black History Month, IU Wells Library Media Services celebrates Black filmmakers and their achievements in cinema.
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Agents of Change (Dir. Frank Dawson & Abby Ginzberg, 2016): From the well-publicized events at San Francisco State in 1968 to the image of Black students with guns emerging from the takeover of the student union at Cornell University in April 1969, the struggle for a more relevant and meaningful education became a clarion call across the country in the late 1960s.
BlacKKKlansman (Dir. Spike Lee, 2018): Ron Stallworth, an African-American police officer from Colorado, successfully managed to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan and became the head of the local chapter.
Car Wash (Dir. Michael Schultz, 1976): Ethnic humor showers this episodic account of a day at a Los Angeles car wash. The film follows the misadventures of the establishment’s multi-racial familial staff and their eccentric customers.
I Am Not Your Negro (Dir. Raoul Peck, 2016): Using James Baldwin's unfinished final manuscript, Remember This House, this documentary follows the lives and successive assassinations of three of the author's friends, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., delving into the legacy of these iconic figures and narrating historic events using Baldwin's original words and a flood of rich archival material. An up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, this film is a journey into Black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter.
If Beale Street Could Talk (Dir. Barry Jenkins, 2019): A timeless love story set in early 1970s Harlem involving newly engaged nineteen-year-old Tish and her fiancé Fonny who have a beautiful future ahead. But their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Now the pair and their families must fight for justice in the name of love and the promise of the American dream.
Karmen Gei (Dir. Joseph Gaï Ramaka, 2002): Karmen escapes prison through her lesbian relationship with the warden. She then wrecks the marriage and career of a police corporal by making him her lover and co-conspirator in a smuggling ring.
Sorry to Bother You (Dir. Boots Riley, 2018): When telemarketer Cassius Green discovers the key to professional success, he finds his life at work becoming more and more bizarre.
Us (Dir. Jordan Peele, 2019): Haunted by trauma from her past and compounded by a string of eerie coincidences, Adelaide grows increasingly certain that something bad is going to befall her family. After spending a tense beach day with their friends, Adelaide and her family return to their vacation home. When darkness falls, the Wilsons discover the silhouette of four figures holding hands as they stand in the driveway: doppelgangers of themselves.
Viva Riva! (Dir. Djo Tunda Wa Munga, 2010): Riva is a small-time operator who has just returned to his hometown of Kinshasa, Congo, after a decade away with a major score: a fortune in hijacked gasoline. Wads of cash in hand and out for a good time. Riva is soon entranced by beautiful nightclub denizen Nora, the kept woman of a local gangster. Into the mix comes an Angolan crime lord relentlessly seeking the return of his stolen shipment of fuel.
Whose Streets? (Dir. Sabaah Folayan, 2017): Told by the activists and leaders who live and breathe this movement for justice, Whose Streets? is an unflinching look at the Ferguson uprising. When unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and left lying in the street for hours, it marks a breaking point for the residents of St. Louis, Missouri. Grief, long-standing racial tensions and renewed anger bring residents together to hold vigil and protest this latest tragedy.
During Covid, only IU faculty, staff and students can borrow materials from Media Services with a valid IU crimson card. Face masks are required. Be sure to check with Media Services for hours. VHS titles are housed off-site at ALF, and can be requested via IUCAT. Suggested keywords in IUCAT: Civil Rights, Black History, African Americans. Limit to film & video, dvd/videodisc, Bloomington campus.
Daughters of the Dust (Dir. Julie Dash, 1991): Languid look at the Gullah culture of the sea islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia where African folkways were maintained well into the twentieth century, one of the last bastions of these mores in America.
Do The Right Thing (Dir. Spike Lee, 1989): It's the hottest day of the year in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Tensions are growing, with the only local businesses being a Korean grocery and Sal's Pizzeria.
Get Out (Dir. Jordan Peele, 2017): A young Black man meets his white girlfriend's parents at their estate, only to find out that the situation is much more sinister than it appears.
Love and Basketball (Dir. Gina Prince-Bythewood, 2000): From the playground to the pro leagues, Monica and Quincy taught each other how to play the game. Now, their commitment to the sport will force them to make a choice between each other and the game, between family and team, between love and basketball.
Moonlight (Dir. Barry Jenkins, 2016): A young Black man struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.
Pariah (Dir. Dee Rees, 2011): Alike is a 17-year-old African-American woman who lives with her parents and younger sister in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood. She has a flair for poetry and is a good student at her local high school. Alike is quietly but firmly embracing her identity as a lesbian. Wondering how much she can confide in her family, Alike strives to get through adolescence with grace, humor, and tenacity, sometimes succeeding, sometimes not, but always moving forward.
Rafiki (Dir. Wanuri Kahiu, 2018): Kena and Ziki have long been told that "good Kenyan girls become good Kenyan wives," but they yearn for something more. Despite the political rivalry between their families, the girls encourage each other to pursue their dreams in a conservative society. When love blossoms between them, Kena and Ziki must choose between happiness and safety.
Selma (Dir. Ava DuVernay, 2014): 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.
Shame (Dir. Steve McQueen, 2011): Brandon is a New Yorker who shuns intimacy with women but feeds his desires with a compulsive addiction to sex. When his wayward younger sister moves into his apartment stirring memories of their shared painful past, Brandon's insular life spirals out of control.
Xala (Dir. Ousmane Sembène, 1975): In a fictional African country, a rich, self-made businessman and member of the post-colonial ruling elite takes on a third wife to show the world his wealth, only to be stricken by a curse resulting in impotency. His efforts at getting cured lead to disastrous yet comical results.
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