BLACK HISTORY MONTH WATCH PARTY RECOMMENDATIONS
Celebrate Black History Month by screening new release films, reacquainting yourself with films from past PIFF festivals, or revisiting classics that you may have missed. All of these titles are available on various streaming platforms – many are directorial debuts. Here are some suggestions:
13TH directed by Ava DuVernay (2016) Explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans. A timely film that highlights the issues behind the recent executive order signed by President Biden to not renew any federal contracts with private prisons. (Netflix)
BAMBOOZLED directed by Spike Lee (2000) A frustrated African American TV writer proposes a blackface minstrel show in protest, but to his chagrin it becomes a hit. A blisteringly funny, unapologetically confrontational satire, Bamboozled is a stinging indictment of mass entertainment at the turn of the century. (Amazon Prime)
BOYZ IN THE HOOD directed by John Singleton (1991) It’s hard to believe that this classic coming-age-‘hood’ drama was the late John Singleton’s fresh out of college feature film debut starring Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr. Laurence Fishburne and recent first-time director herself, Regina King (One Night in Miami). Following the lives of three young males living in the Crenshaw ghetto of Los Angeles, the story contemplates future prospects in the face of social and economic turmoil.
DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST directed by Julie Dash, (1991) Julie Dash’s rapturous vision of Black womanhood and vanishing ways of life in the turn-of-the-century South was the first film directed by an African American woman to receive a wide release. Addressing weighty themes with lovely visuals and a light, poetic touch, offering an original, absorbing look at a largely unexplored corner of American culture.
THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MARSHA P. JOHNSON directed by David France (2017) Chronicles the life and mysterious death of celebrated LGBTQ rights activist Marsha P. Johnson, who was found floating in the Hudson River. Originally ruled a suicide, many in the community believe she was murdered. Paying tribute to Johnson’s important role in the LGBTQ movement, the film also laments the loss of a beloved figure who was a mother of sorts to many transgendered people in the city.
EVE’S BAYOU directed by Kasi Lemmons (1997) Over the course of a long, hot Louisiana summer, a 10-year-old black girl, Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett), discovers that her family’s affluent existence is merely a facade. A striking feature debut for director Kasi Lemmons, the film layers terrific performances and Southern mysticism into a measured meditation on disillusionment and forgiveness.
FRUITVALE STATION directed by Ryan Coogler (2013) Based on the true story of Oscar Grant III, the film takes place in the hours before his murder by a police officer on New Year’s Day in 2008 at the Bay Area Rapid Transit station of the title. Featuring the debut performance of Michael B. Jordan, the film, in its restraint, delivers a sobering portrayal of the consequences of unconscious bias and racism.
JUST ANOTHER GIRL ON THE I.R.T. directed by Leslie Harris. (1992) A teen girl struggles to reconcile her desire for self-improvement with her rebellious nature and her lack of maturity in this coming-of-age drama, which won first-time director Leslie Harris a special jury prize at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival.
THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO directed by Joe Talbot. (2019) A moving wistful odyssey of a young man searching for home in a gentrified Bay Area community. Populated by skaters, squatters, street preachers, playwrights and other locals on the margins who attempt to lay claim to the community that has left them behind.
PRECIOUS directed by Lee Daniels (2009) Director Lee Daniels poured his own experiences of domestic volatility into this searing adaptation of Sapphire’s novel Push, about a Harlem girl whose journey to literacy may just set her free. Mo’Nique won an Oscar for her supporting role as Precious’ mother and launched the career of Gabourey Sidibe, playing the traumatized and then triumphant title character.
SLAM directed by Marc Levin (1998) Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic Film at Sundance and the Camera d’Or at Cannes, Slam tells the story of Ray Joshua, an original, gifted young poet trapped in a war-zone housing project in Washington, D.C. One day he is arrested on petty drug charges and ends up jail, where he meets two people who can redirect his life: a prison gang leader or a beautiful female poet teaching a self-expression class for inmates.
SPRINTER directed by Storm Saulter (2019) Tells the story of a Jamaican teen who is burdened by an unstable father and an unruly older brother hopes a meteoric rise in track-and-field can reunite him with his mother, who has lived illegally in the U.S. for over a decade. Screened at Provincetown Jamaican Film Festival in 2019.