Racial conflict has re-erupted in the United States, a social problem that has been addressed in numerous films and documentaries. From “Detroit” and “BlacKkKlansman” to the recent film about Michelle Obama, we review the latest titles to understand the crisis.
“Malcolm X”, “The Color Purple”, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “Bamboozled”, “The Help” … there are several films that narrate racism during the formation of the country, the war of independence and after the abolition of slavery. But in recent years, new films have been released that bring a current perspective to the social problem.
“MOONLIGHT” – 2016 – BEING POOR, BLACK AND GAY IN THE UNITED STATES
When it was released in 2016, “Moonlight” garnered so much praise that it overshadowed the colorful “La La Land” and took the Oscar for Best Picture.
Divided into three segments, it narrates the childhood, adolescence, and maturity of Chiron, a young African-American man, orphaned by a father, with a depressed and drug-dependent mother, who grows up in the troubled suburbs of Miami.
Neglected by his family and harassed by his peers, the protagonist tries to become independent and build his life in a maze that seems to have no way out.
“Moonlight” marked several milestones: first LGBT-themed film with an entirely black cast; second film with the lowest budget Oscar winner; first Muslim -Mahershala Ali- who wins in acting and the second African-American director in history with an Oscar-winning film.
Frank Ocean, one of the most representative artists of this generation, wrote the foreword to the book based on the film.
“BLACKKKLANSMAN” – 2018 – THE BLACK POLICE FIGHTING IN THE KU KLUX KLAN
Although it may seem impossible, “BlacKkKlansman” tells the true story of an African American police officer, Ron Stallworth, who in the 1970s managed to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), the largest white supremacist group in the United States.
To prevent them from finding out that he was a black man, Ron had the help of a white police officer who attended meetings and recorded the conversations.
Both managed to avoid violent acts and demonstrated to the Pentagon itself that there were members of the army among the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan.
Directed by Spike Lee, the film includes numerous references to the past, such as stereotypes about the black race in films such as “Gone with the Wind”; and to the present, with an epilogue that recalls the Charlottesville massacre and the controversial speeches by Donald Trump.
“BECOMING” – 2020 – FROM THE HUMBLE NEIGHBORHOODS OF CHICAGO TO THE WHITE HOUSE
“Becoming” is the title of the book in which Michelle Obama tells her personal story and also that of the Netflix documentary that followed the first lady on the presentation tour, just after leaving the White House.
At the beginning of the film, Michelle condenses her life story with a compelling phrase: “I’m from the South Side of Chicago. That tells you everything you need to know about me.”
Those origins, in a neighborhood where a large number of working-class African-American families reside, are very present in the life of Michelle Robinson Obama, a lawyer who became the first African-American woman to arrive at the presidential residence.
The leader remembers difficult moments in her life, such as when the mother of one of her fellow university students asked that their daughter change rooms because she did not want her to live with a black girl.
Through Michelle’s testimony and conversations with other young women, director Nadia Hallgren constructs an x-ray of what it means to be a black woman in the United States.
“DETROIT” – 2017 – THE 1967 Riot Against Racism
The wave of protests that the United States is experiencing in 2020 has one of its reflections in the 1967 Detroit riots, which erupted as a result of the police action on 12th street – mostly black – and resulted in 43 deaths.
The central plot of “Detroit” is police violence, specifically that carried out by white agents on black citizens. In other words, the current social conflict.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the film explores endemic racism, the feeling of impunity and social differences based on racial prejudice.
“13th” – 2016 – MASS IMPRISONMENTS IN THE USA
Criminal justice reform in the United States is one of the few political consensus reached under Trump’s mandate.
Few politicians in Washington, nor conservatives, defend the current flawed system that applies disproportionate convictions for minor crimes that have saturated the country’s jails, many run by private companies.
The documentary “13th” reviews how the systemic prejudices that motivated certain reforms during Richard Nixon’s “The War on Drugs” have led, decades later, to thousands of African Americans behind bars for drug trafficking crimes in poor areas, sometimes the last link in a more complex criminal hierarchy.
“12 YEARS A SLAVE” – 2013 – THE COUNTRY UNDER THE LAWS OF SEGREGATION
Directed by Steve McQueen and Oscar winner, it travels until 1841, when slavery was still legal in some states.
It is an adaptation of the autobiography of Solomon Northup (Twelve Years a Slave), a free-born mulatto in New York state who was kidnapped in Washington D.C. in 1841 and sold as a slave.
Slavery was gradually abolished, but racial segregation continued until 1965.
“HOLLYWOOD” – 2020 – THE REPRESENTATION ON THE BIG SCREEN
This Netflix miniseries carries the current complaints about the underrepresentation of minorities in the cinema to the golden age of Hollywood. What if the big roles weren’t reserved for white stars only?
Seventh art mythology has a less glamorous hidden face, such as the failure of the career of Dorothy Dandridge, who played a black “Cleopatra” but her scenes were removed and re-recorded with Elizabeth Taylor in 1963. Dandridge’s career was he truncated and died in 1965 from an antidepressant overdose.