So I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I can do to help raise awareness to the Black Lives Matter Movement and help to continue to educate myself and others and what better way of doing that than talking about movies! Over the last couple of years I have used my Cineworld Unlimited Card to see quite a few movies I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Now don’t get me wrong I love a good throw away action movie as much as the next person but the movies I really love are the ones that really make me feel something. That make me ask questions and want to discuss their plot points and the messages they are trying to represent. If a movie has made me feel uncomfortable its because I have a lesson to learn and I really want other people around me to embrace this more. So here are just a few of the movies I have seen over the last couple of years pertaining to the Black Lives Matter Movement that have stuck with me, which I strongly urge more people to watch and give a try
If you want to ease yourself in gently this comedy is definitely the way to go. BlacKkKlansman is a comedy based on the true story of Ron Stallworth a Black Police Detective who in the 70s embarked on a mission to infiltrate and bring down his town’s chapter of the Klu Klux Klan by posing over the phone as a Supremist White Man. Adam Driver plays the role of Stallworth’s Jewish partner who is used as a front for Ron who uses his own white face to help infiltrate and take down this group. This is a movie that expertly mixes comedy with its strong subject matter to make a film that is easy to watch as well as driving its point home to the audience. Due to its basis in reality this is also a great example of the history of the Black Lives Matter movement and uses footage of current events to show that the fight is still ongoing.
What makes this movie more prevalent is the way it is told from a Black Police Officers perspective. It continues to show the deep seated racism from within the Police Force itself. Regardless of Ron being brought in as the first Black Officer in Colorado Springs, in an attempt to move the force into a new inclusive direction he is still met with racism from his peers within the same job.
Although this movie is a period piece it does well to also reflect society today by including references to our modern day Trump era such as his slogan “Make America Great Again” and using the audiences hindsight to make uncomfortable jokes that not only make you laugh but think.
However the thing that stuck with me the most from this movie was it’s ending. Instead of just rolling the credits at the end of the film it instead shows footage from the Charlottesville protests back in 2017 to show that what our protagonists were fighting for in the movie we just watched, laughed at and enjoyed, is in fact still ongoing. It was this footage that ultimately stuck with me and made me as a privileged white person feel uncomfortable and made me really realise that this issue still continues.
2. The Hate U Give
Next we have a movie that is getting a lot of press right now and rightfully so. Based on the book of the same name, this movie follows a young black girl named Star who choses to stand up for what she believes in when she witnesses the murder of her best friend by a police officer during a traffic stop. This is a tale that is all too realistic in our modern day society. Although we are only shown a short period of time in Star’s life it is enough to show just how different it is from our own and highlights issues that we with white privilege are lucky to not have to think about. I learnt so much from seeing this film such as the lessons that Black parents teach their kids because they are afraid for their lives in comparison to the ones our own parents taught us. One of the most disturbing and eye opening scenes though is when Star confronts a girl with a hairbrush, the very same item her friend was holding when he was shot. I love how this highlights that although both girls go to the same school, there is still a huge difference between the way the two girls think and are treated. I don’t think a film could highlight my own white privilege and make me realise my own issues I needed to continue to educate myself on more.
The biggest thing that stuck with me from viewing this movie however didn’t come from the movie at all but from what I witnessed before the film had even started. I was privileged enough to see this movie at a Cineworld Unlimited Secret Screening. I love secret screenings because they make you go see films you possibly wouldn’t have thought to have seen as you don’t know what the film is until you are in the theatre and it has already started. The amount of people who left the cinema as soon as the title card for the movie was shown sickened me. These people weren’t even going to give this movie a try. It also told me they never planned on seeing this movie in the first place. It showed me racism is still alive and well amongst those that surround me and if I a white person was sickened and upset by this I couldn’t even begin to imagine or understand how black people felt to see that their work and their stories still don’t matter to some people. This memory and the way I felt in that moment will always haunt me and I will always regret not speaking out at the time to call out these people when I wanted to due to my own White Privilege.
3. Queen and Slim
This is a movie I never got around to writing about when I saw it earlier this year but you can bet I still spoke about it to my peers. This is a film about a couple who get pulled over by a police officer at the end of their first date, who shoot the officer out of self defence and due to a fear for there own lives, proceed to go on the run becoming a symbol within the black lives matter movement happening around them. This is a movie that accurately portrays the fear that has been instilled in black people and enforces the fact that they don’t get to have normal lives like those of us who are white. Queen is a Lawyer and despite telling the officer this and telling him their rights he still insists on attacking the couple causing them to act in self defence. These actions alone make it clear that black people are held to a different accountability than us white folks.
Throughout the film we follow their journey as they go on the run, not out of a notion to disobey the law, but out of a fear for their lives because they know they won’t get a fair trial and the police officers hunting them down will shoot first and ask questions later. This movie makes you route for the protagonists to the point that you believe they have hope and have a chance only to have it stripped away again at the last minute. It highlights the effect these things have on young people as the couple come into contact with a young man who has come to hold them up on a pedestal and puts his own life at risk at protests for them. I love how this film reflects not just on todays events but also shows the journey the movement has come on. From showing what causes these protests, to showing there are white allies willing to help, to showing that not all police officers are the same but it also uses its ending to bring home that there are still people out there who will do the cause harm and bring all that hard work and sacrifice crashing down again.
I fear this was a movie possibly overlooked due to its cast and subject matter but also corona virus. So I urge you if you get the chance to watch this movie when it is released on DVD or streaming sites that you do.
4. Just Mercy
Lastly I want to talk about another of the more recent films I saw before lockdown happened and that is Just Mercy, which I already did a brief review of earlier on in the year. Just Mercy is the real life story of Black Lawyer, Bryan Stevenson played by Michael B. Jordan, as he takes on the cases of Black men on death row in Alabama who have wrongfully been charged for their crimes with little to no evidence to support those cases. This all star cast are incredible as they portray real life people who literally put their lives on the line in the name of justice. I can’t even begin to put into words how this movie made me feel and I am ashamed that I almost overlooked it. This movie was given a 12A rating in the UK which I think is generous given the hard hitting subject matter in this film. This is a movie which literally shows you the lives of real people who were on death row and unfortunately not all of them make it. You are introduced to these people who have been locked away and are being sentenced to death not because of evidence but because of the colour of their skin. This is a movie that screams at the injustice of these actions.
I left this film last because of one particularly harrowing scene in this movie that has stuck with me and one that a 4/5 year old girl was allowed into the theatre I was in that day to see. When unfortunately time runs out for Herbert Richardson who is unable to get an appeal, despite him actually being discharged from the army due to psychiatric illness, he is sent to the electric chair. The sounds of his fellow prisoners making as much noise as they can from their cells so that Herbert knows they stand with him, that they acknowledge his life and make sure he does not feel alone is haunting and one that stays with you. Although Jamie Foxx’s character Walter McMillian is ultimately acquitted of the charges that have unlawfully been held against him, Herbert’s death scene sticks with you and reminds you of how many people weren’t as lucky and how many murders of innocent black men and women have come from an unjust judicial system in the US.
I do not list these movies to judge you, my own discomfort at watching these movies proves that I too recognise a problem. Please give movies like these a chance and may we keep learning about our fellow man. If you have any other movies you’d like to discuss that touches on this subject please leave them in the comments, even if its just so I can expand my own source material. Continue to take those hard steps and watch those movies that make you feel uncomfortable, you may just learn something.