With the death of George Floyd, Dion Johnson here in Phoenix, and many other people of color, conversations about race, racism, policing and the abuse of power are back on center stage. Hollywood has not been immune to promoting hurtful and tone-deaf narratives. The big studios have long promoted white, cis-gendered, male stories over those of women, people of color and the LGBTQ community. In recent years we have seen efforts to make changes. Waves of “Oscars So White” and “Time Out” sought to varying degrees of success to change the conversations in Tinseltown. And while there have been efforts to increase the visibility of Black film in particular, there is still a very long way to go.
As two white women, one identifying as pansexual and the other as cisgender, we strive to be aware of our own inherent biases when viewing films. With that in mind, we want to introduce you to five Black-made films that you might not have seen, and that we love.
Directed by Carlos López Estrada, Blindspotting is a 2018 comedic drama both written, produced and starring Daveed Diggs (who you might recognize from the Broadway hit Hamilton) and Rafael Casal. The film follows parolee Collin Hoskins (Diggs) as he finishes his last three days of probation. His best friend since childhood Miles, is short tempered and reckless. Having grown up on the rougher side of the San Francisco Bay, Collin and Miles experience the divides between race. While Miles can get away with acting tough and being a troublemaker, Collin faces prejudice, bigotry and racism. Through humor and drama, Blindspotting examines the complicated nature of race and racism and who belongs.
You can watch it now on Amazon Prime.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
In a semi-autobiographical story, Jimmie Fails longs to return to the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. Each week he lovingly and covertly tends to the home, while avoiding the current occupants. When the homeowners are suddenly forced to leave the house, Jimmie seizes the opportunity to move in. But family secrets lay buried there and Jimmie realizes that family history isn’t always certain. Joined on his adventures by his best friend and artist, Montgomery, Jimmie searches for identity and belonging in a city that is ever changing.
The film was co-written by Jimmie Fails and JoeTalbot, and directed by Joe Talbot.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco is one of our top picks from Sundance 2019.
You can see it now on Amazon Prime.
Michelle Obama is just as iconic as her husband President Obama, and in the Netflix documentary on her life, we get a close and intimate look at the First Lady’s life. For those who haven’t read her memoir by the same name, the Netflix documentary allows for a speed round of Michelle Obama’s life, through the lens of her book tour.
Directed by Nadia Hallgren, Becoming shows the First Lady reflecting on her eight years in office with her husband and children as well as all the years that led up to that time.
You can see Becoming on Netflix.
In this Netflix adaptation of the Broadway play by Christopher Demos-Brown, American Son the film version premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film festival. Starring Kerry Washington, Steven Pasquale and Jeremy Jordan, the plot examines the unjustified killings of Black men at the hands of white police officers. A timely subject that is still exceptionally raw even today. Washington plays Kendra Ellis-Connor, a mother of a missing teenage boy. She is on the hunt to find out what happened to her son.
You can find American Son on Netflix.
The 2017 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Moonlight explores three periods of life for Chiron. From young adolescence, to mid-teen and then to young adulthood, we see Chiron navigate what it means to grow up Black in a crime-ridden neighborhood in Miami, Florida. Chiron is shy and aloof, often observing his life instead of actively participating — at least until he is forced to interact. Bound up in this, is Chiron’s discovery of his sexuality as a gay man. Moonlight is poetic, stirring and beautiful.
Moonlight was written and Barry Jenkins, who also directed the fantastic 2019 film If Beale Street Could Talk.
You can watch Moonlight on Netflix.
Whiskey and Popcorn is a movie podcast by local film critics Kaely Monahan and Tuesday Mahrle. You can hear their full movie reviews on whiskeyandpopcorn.org.