Systemic racism is not a foreign concept reserved for the larger world, with Malta being just as susceptible to its harm and oppression. The recent story of Jaiteh Lamin has brought the Maltese up close to the realities experienced by oppressed minorities. And yet, it seems, the history of the systemic issue is alien to most. An antidote to this often involuntary denial is listening to Black voices and witnessing their stories. Here are 7 movies you can watch to educate yourself about the history of such a complex issue.
‘I am not your Negro’
By Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck, ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ is a documentary about writer James Baldwin. Featuring narration by Samuel L. Jackson, the film reads out an unfinished book by one of history’s most prolific and talented writers of colour. It investigates the history of racism through the US as Baldwin speaks about civil rights leaders such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
’12 Years a Slave’
A 2013 biographical period-drama film, the film is an adaptation of the 1853 slave memoir ‘Twelve Years a Slave’. It deals with the sort of a New York-state born free African American who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Northrup is put to work on plantations and the film was named as the 44th greatest film since 2000 in a BBC poll of 177 critics.
A 2016 coming-of-age drama film written and directed by Barry Jenkins, ‘Moonlight’ is based on playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unpublished semi-autobiographical play ‘In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.’ The story focuses on the main character’s stages in life as he struggles with sexuality and identity. It works to weave topics of blackness, masculinity and vulnerability and grossed over $65 million worldwide.
‘Get Out’ is director and writer Jordan Peele’s directorial debut and is an American horror film in which a young black man ends up in a terrifying situation with his girlfriend’s parents. It received widespread acclaim from critics, focusing on the lack of attention given to missing black Americans and the stereotype of ‘white saviours.’
A biographical spy crime comedy film directed by Spike Lee based on 2014 memoir Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth. The latter was the first African-American detective in the city’s police department to infiltrate and expose the local KKK. Despite dramatising a couple of events, the film was met with considerable acclaim and praise for stellar performances and its depiction of African-Americans working in the force.
‘Selma’ is a 2014 historical drama film directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb. It is based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches initiated by James Bevel and led by Martin Luther King Jr. It received four Golden Globe Award nominations, praised for its amazing performances and also won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.
Of course, watching films isn’t the antidote to dealing with racism. Action is. But one cannot act on something one does not know exists or how it operates. Watching such films and doing the background reading and research can help one become a better supporter of such causes. These are current issues close to our existence. The more we’re aware the better equipped we could be to help in anyway we can.