In celebration of Black History Month, we list some top independent black-centric films that that amazed in this past year. From Sundance hits to ground-breaking work in filmmaking and talent, here are several films that enlightened and entertained.
Director/ Writer: Rick Famuyiwa
After a chance invitation to an underground party by the neighborhood drug dealer, Malcom goes on an adventure of a lifetime throughout Los Angeles.
Dope initially reminds you of a modern Boyz N the Hood style drama but then flips it on its head and dives into a comedy. The movie follows three friends: Harvard hopeful and geek Malcolm (Shameik Moore) whose main interests are skateboards, Donald Glover, and other “shit white people like” and his two best friends Jib (Tony Revolori, The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) on a wild adventure after they accidently acquire drugs and a gun at a party. The movie is sound in that it is funny and insightful about a different side of society – the new age of geeky without the negative stigma of the traditionally-depicted nerd. The kids are decked out in trendy clothes, love 90’s hip-hop, play in a punk band (Awreeoh – get it? Say it out loud), and very well educated on all topics involving pop culture, despite being bullied. This film is for those looking for a caper flick with a giant farce that at times is more ridiculous than believable, but still provides an entertaining film. Dope is on Netflix and available for your choosing.
Lila and Eve (2015)
Director: Charles Stone, Writer: Pat Filfillan
Lila (Viola Davis), a grief-stricken mother in the aftermath of her son’s murder in a drive-by shooting, attends a support group where she meets Eve (Jennifer Lopez), who has lost her daughter. When nothing is accomplished by the police, Eve urges Lila to take matters in her own hands.
A strong story propelled by the stellar acting of Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez, the quietly marketed movie revolves around the fantasy of these wronged mothers of going on a killing spree. Instead of focusing on the lives cut short by overzealous police and the brutality at the center of the #BlackLivesMatter movement , as many shows are, this film brings to light the lives in the community that are affected – the mothers, fathers and friends left in the aftermath of the devastation.
Director: Sean Baker
Writer: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch
Tangerine stars two actors new to the world of acting: Kitana Kiki Rodgriguez and Mya Taylor. The story takes place on Christmas Eve and follows a prostitute as she sets out to find her pimp who broke her heart.
The entire film was shot entirely on iPhone. It received initial recognition at Sundance in 2015 and rightfully so, with its multiple story lines which all intersect on Christmas Eve day in Los Angeles. It establishes itself very quickly as a comedic drama through the main character’s relentless pursuit for the pimp that cheated on them and is nowhere to be found, and the ridiculousness of the extent to which they are willing to go in order to find him.
The Birth of a Nation (2016)
Director/Writer: Nate Parker
The Birth of a Nation is a biographical film about Nat Turner, an African- American slave who led a slave rebellion in Southhampton County, Virginia in 1831, which is written, produced and directed by Nate Parker.
The film made history at Sundance this year. It was purchased for a $17.5 million by Fox Searchlight Pictures, making it the largest deal at Sundance to date. It also went on to win an Audience Award and a Grand Jury Prize. Nate Parker’s film has been applauded by critics as a story that wields elegance in its portrayal of horror and tragedy.
Beasts of No Nation (2015)
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga, Writer: Cary Joji Fukunaga based of the novel Uzodinma Iweala
A powerful movie following a child soldier in West African warfare, “Beasts of No Nation” is Netflix’s first original feature, which is directed by Cary Fukunaga.
The searing portrait of a War Lord commanding a child soldier centers on first-time actor, 15-year-old Abraham Attah, and Idris Elba, who gives a great performance as a warlord, and it being overlooked by the Oscars has stirred controversy. As much as this movie leans on this side of a brutal and violent life, it ends on a shimmering shred of hope.
If you haven’t taken the time to watch any of these films, most of these titles are available on Netflix or to purchase online. Every one of these films sheds light on a particular subject that either deals with current civil rights or a topic too taboo by today’s standards. I encourage you to take a walk in one of these character’s shoes and see what they see.