The world as it is now, is dealing with the death of 46-year-old African-American George Floyd, who was murdered by a white police officer last Monday in Minneapolis, City of Minnesota. The 9-minute harsh condition and brutality Floyd faced prior to his sudden death has being an issue of fear black people live with since decades beyond count.
To be black means, you can be accidentally killed by a police officer. Take into account the cases of Bettie Jones (2015), Philando Castile (2016), Botham Jean (2018), Atatiana Koquice Jefferson (2019) and the many other lives claimed by officers without any lawful reasons to do so.
In Hollywood, the subject of racism and unfair treatment of black people have been a key subject that major film studios explore in their attempt to tell the truth and fiction stories of African-Americans that have faced injustice and discrimination at one point in time. In a way, it is their other means of protesting and highlighting how unfair the system is through the films.
In relating Hollywood dramas and television with the ongoing protests for justice and a better world for black people, we have assembled below ten Hollywood productions that center around racism, slavery and oppression of the black community.
Based on a true-life story, three female African-Americans, Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) and Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) go through a series racial and gender discrimination in the workplace despite their tremendous contribution to the orbit launch of astronaut John Glenn. The film depicts the real life events of racism at the NASA Langley Research Center in 1961, where the female-mathematicians were required to use separate but equal bathrooms set apart from the ones used by their colleague white folks.
“Their dark skin, their gender, their economic status–none of those were acceptable excuses for not giving the fullest rein to their imaginations and ambitions,” quotes Margot Lee Shetterly, the author whose book the film was adapted.
Penned under the era of segregation, Mahershala Ali plays Jazz musician Don Shirley, who embarks on a road trip for his concert tour with his driver Tony Lip, played by Viggo Mortensen. The two uniquely develop some connection of respect and understanding during their journey in the Deep South, where they faced color discrimination and danger. It’s based on a real-life event set in 1962.
“So if I’m not black enough, and if I’m not white enough, and if I’m not man enough, then tell me Tony, what am I?” asked Shirley.
The Hate You Give
Familiar with the present killings, 16-year-old black girl Starr Carter narrates how she witnessed the shooting of her childhood friend Khalil. Based on the novel written by Angie Thomas, the violence and abuse of power met with ‘call for justice’ protests are segmented in this film detailing the neglect of a fair system in the black community.
“Once upon a time there was a hazel-eyed boy with dimples. I called him Khalil. The world called him a thug. He lived, but not nearly long enough, and for the rest of my life I’ll remember how he died. Fairy tale? No. But I’m not giving up on a better ending,” wrote Angie Thomas, author of the novel.
Developed for the big screen for the primary purpose of telling the story of slavery and racism, ‘Django Unchained’ by Quentin Tarantino features Jamie Foxx as Django a freed slave who joins forces with a bounty hunter to rescue his wife captured by a cruel plantation owner.
“Kill white people and get paid for it? And get paid for it?” said Django, reflecting on how satisfied he gets when he kills a member of the white race who brought shame and suffering to his black folks.
Directed by Ava DuVernay, ‘Selma’ follows the civil rights demonstration led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) in Alabama City for the right of black people to equally register and vote. The protest led to the signing of the Voting Rights Acts in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson.
“We need your involvement here, Mr. President. We deserve your help as citizens of this country. Citizens under attack,” quotes Martin Luther King Jr.
12 Years a Slave
Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free African-American, is promised a fortnightly job by Brown and Hamilton. However, after arriving in Washington DC, he realises that he has been sold into slavery. It’s an adaptation of the 1853 slave memoir, ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ by Solomon Northup.
“Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” based on the true story of Solomon Northup, drives straight to the heart of the cruelties of oppression,” wrote film critic Manohla Dargis in his film review submission to the New York Times.
Based on Alex Haley’s family history, Kunta Kinte is sold into the slave trade after being abducted from his African village, and is taken to the United States. Kinte and his family observe notable events in American history, such as the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, slave uprisings and emancipation.
“I was weeping for all of history’s incredible atrocities against fellowmen, which seems to be mankind’s greatest flaw,” wrote Haley in ‘Roots: The Saga of an American Family’.
Queen and Slim
Slim and Queen’s first date takes an unexpected turn when a policeman pulls them over for a minor traffic violation. When the situation escalates, Slim takes the officer’s gun and shoots him in self-defense. Now labelled cop killers in the media, Slim and Queen feel that they have no choice but to go on the run and evade the law. When a video of the incident goes viral, the unwitting outlaws soon become a symbol of trauma, terror, grief and pain for people all across the country.
Jamal, the son of Kendra Elllis-Connor (Kerry Washington) and Scott Connor (Steven Pasquale) is shot dead by a police officer when pulled over together with his two friends Bell and Rolle. Jamal according to the police report read to them by Lieutenant John Stokes, Jamal was accidentally killed when Rodney Banks, a black police officer was targeting Bell instead. At the end of the report reading, Connor wails in agony saying the words “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” responding to the news about his son’s death.
Exploring the life of the fearless and heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman, Cynthia Erivo stars in Gregory Allen Howard’s film that showcases how Tubman, a freed slave took the hard road in freeing her other black people left in the hands of their slave masters to suffer. She was monikered ‘Moses’ due to her bravery and appearance when on a rescue mission.
“I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.” Catherine Clinton, author of Harriet Tubman: The Rod to Freedom.