There’s no shortage of information out there about what you should be watching, listening and reading right now, but you might be wondering what anti-racist movies to start with.
Here is a mix of nine fictional and documentary-style anti-racist movies to watch:
- To Kill A Mockingbird
- I Am Not Your Negro
- Get Out
- Whose Streets?
- Green book
- The Hate U Give
- When They See Us
To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
To Kill A Mockingbird follows an unfortunately familiar storyline: a black man is accused of a crime that he didn’t commit and faces the consequences of racism by death. The storyline is cleverly delivered from the innocent, unbiased eyes of young Jean Louise (“Scout”) Finch. The film was released almost 60 years ago but still sadly rings true today.
Moonlight is part coming-of-age tale, part social document. The storyline follows the life of an African American male from boy to man. What is striking about Moonlight is that the tale isn’t necessarily an overt showcase of racism in the United States. However, it does portray the notion that black men have an image they are expected to uphold, one of hyper-masculinity. This is a theme that is unpacked in the writing of Damon Young.
13th is a documentary named after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1865, which abolished slavery throughout the country and ended involuntary servitude. The documentary explores racial inequality within the prison system in the United States. Scholars, activists and politicians analyse the criminalisation of African Americans and the US prison boom.
I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
I Am Not Your Negro is part visual essay, part documentary, exploring racism through the experiences of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the documentary acts as both a political and poetic statement, and takes the audience on a journey of the “American Dream” through the eyes of an African American man.
Get Out (2017)
Get Out feels like a horror film and it is. But the source of horror isn’t a monster in a mask, nor is it paranormal; the horror comes from the palpable racism that protagonist Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) faces when he visits his (white) girlfriend’s family in rural upstate New York. The spooky film mirrors the horrors that black men face as Chris becomes the victim, is trapped and cannot get out — much like a system that most minorities face.
Whose Streets? (2017)
Whose Streets? is a documentary film that examines the uprising that followed the killing of 18-year old Michael Brown, and the resulting Ferguson uprising. The film hones in on Hands Up United’s co-founder Tory Russell, Brittany Ferrell, a nurse and young mother, and David Whitt, a recruiter for civilian organisation Cop Watch. It offers first-hand perspectives of those on the ground during racial riots and protests.
Green book (2018)
Green book follows the literal and metaphorical journey of an African American pianist and an Italian American bouncer as they travel through southern America. The film is based on a true story of Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (once an avid racist) and classical and jazz pianist Donald Shirley, who needed a bodyguard to tackle that part of America during the 1960s. While the film has attracted certain controversies, it does showcase the severe racism that existed, and still does, from both the perspectives of a black man and a white man. Overall, it shows how interracial friendship and understanding are possible — a reminder that is unfortunately still necessary today.
The Hate U Give (2018)
The Hate U Give is a movie about 16-year old Starr Carter’s story of grief and mourning as she loses her friend Khalil to police brutality. Carter comes from the fictional black neighbourhood, Garden Heights, and attends a predominantly white private school, Williamson Prep. She finds herself battling between two mindsets: one in which she yearns to seek justice for her friend, and one in which she wants to silently move on from the trauma she has experienced at the hands of racism. This is one of the few anti-racist movies that showcase modern-day racism while being less confronting for a teenage audience.
When They See Us (2019)
When They See Us is a four-part true story about the case of the ‘central park five’, in which jogger Trisha Meili was assaulted and raped in New York’s Central Park. The attack led to the wrongful conviction of five young men from Harlem, their exoneration in 2002, and an eventual collective settlement of $41 million. The series highlights the problems of the criminal justice system by showcasing how prosecutors in the New York County District Attorney’s Office framed these men and traumatised them into false confessions, while also forcing the audience to think about their own unconscious bias.
Which anti-racist movies have you been watching? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.