It’s Black History Month, let’s talk about the Black Film Canon.
So, last week I gave you all a list of some really awesome books by Black women. Today, I wanted to share with you some amazing movies that many of you are probably unfamiliar with. These movies are directed by African-Americans and usually star mainly Black people.
The Spook Who Sat By the Door
Director: Ivan Dixon
The CIA has been all-white since its inception and after the Civil Rights Movement, the federal organization was under pressure to integrate. And so, they begin to look for their first Black officer. After a grueling training program, they hire one Black man, who is really just a token. Yet, Dan Freeman, the man they hired is a Black nationalist and decides to use his position to hire more Black people. Interestingly enough, this movie (based on a book by Sam Greenlee) was pulled from theaters quite possibly because of its political message and the climate at the time.
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Director: Darnell Martin
Based on the novel by Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God tells the story of Janie, a young woman who is forced to marry someone much older. She then runs away and marries again, only finding that her second husband has stolen her voice and sense of creativity. Finally free when he dies, she meets Tea Cake, a younger man who allows her to be herself and doesn’t talk about what is and isn’t proper. The film is a wonderful representation of the book starring Halle Berry and Michael Ealy.
To Sleep With Anger
Director: Charles Burnett
What happens when old friends come to visit and that visit turns into a stay? When Harry Mention (played by Danny Glover) comes to visit his friends in their L.A. home, he brings with him the memory of good times yet after his stay becomes extended, we see him for who he really is: a trickster. Mention is volatile and malevolent and with him comes conflict, a socio-economic conflict that had never disappeared but was forgotten along the way. This film is a discussion on Black upward mobility and a final farewell to the sharecroppers of the Great Migration.
Director: Haile Gerima
Sankofa, is a proverb, symbolized by a bird looking at a pebble on its back. It represents the notion of looking back and learning from the past. And that is the premise of this film. A young model named Mona, while in the middle of a photo shoot, is somehow sent back into the past. And now she is just one more slave on a plantation in the American South. This film is a masterful work that unpacks systematic and generational oppression. When Mona returns to her time, she is forever changed and has a new understanding of what her ancestors went through.
Director: Amma Asante
The setting is 18th-century London. The protagonist is a young woman named Belle, the daughter of a British Royal Navy officer and an African Slave. Brought up as free and raised by her uncle, Belle struggles with her mixed-race heritage and what it means for her in society. And even though she was raised as upper class, she still has to struggle for her voice and fight for her survival.
Have you ever seen or heard of these dynamic movies? If so, tell me how you liked them down below. I’d love it if you shared this post with another film lover and if you followed this blog if you don’t already. Be sure to check back in on Mondays and Fridays!