February: Black Stories on Screen
In celebration of Black History Month, I've compiled some favorites by and starring black people. It is worth noting that I am a white lady writing this, so if I am not doing justice to these stories etc. PLEASE CALL ME OUT. I want to learn! And I want to celebrate all these great stories, so here are some of my picks…
1. Support the Girls (2018)
Lisa (Regina Hall) is the general manager of a breastaurant (like Hooters) off of the highway. It's not a great job, but Lisa is doing her best to hold the place together, help her employees, and deal with a million other things while having tension with the owner. She's fighting for whats best and whats right and is the kind of person who is wholly committed to the customer service. It's a story about women standing up for themselves and making the most of where they are in life. It's shot in a very low key way with wonderful imagery and has a wonderful ending. Support Regina Hall!
2. Pariah (2011)
This film heavily inspired my first short. It's the story of Alike (Adepero Oduye) who is at odds with her parents thrusting feminine clothing and ideals on her. She would rather go to lesbian clubs and soon finds a girl she falls for. When things begin to unravel, Alike considers coming out and coming clean to her family. It's a heart-wrenching, beautifully shot movie that explores sexuality, coming of age, and nuanced parent/child relationships. Be warned: it can be a tear jerker.
3. Girls Trip (2017)
Another Regina Hall joint, but this time with more of our favorites (Jada Pinkett-Smith! Queen Latifa! Tiffany Haddish!!) for a raunchy reunion trip to New Orleans. Four best friends from college decide to take on Essence Festival as the successful Ryan (Regina Hall) and her husband's lifestyle brand will be one of the main events. They party and trip on absinthe and swap wild blow job tricks - but the long buried issues come up too. This movie can fall short with its dramatic narrative goals, but completely knocks it out as far as comedy is concerned. It's pretty rare to see movies about women over the age of 35 having fun - and YOU will have fun watching it. If you missed it, go see it!
4. Moonlight (2016)
It is actually time for you to sit down and watch Moonlight if you haven't - it's actually fairly remarkable that a movie this quiet, intensely emotional with arthouse styling would even be in the running for Best Picture. We don't have time to get into that. Moonlight tells the story of the childhood of Little (Alex Hibbert) growing to adolescence as Chiron (Ashton Sanders) and as the adult Black (Trevante Rhodes). From a drug addicted mother and living in poverty to scratching the surface of his sexuality, and finally reconnecting with his old friend from his sexual awakening - Moonlight tells the story of sexuality in the black community through the intense emotionality of Little/Chiron/Black. It's powerful and another impeccably shot tear jerker.
5. Boyz in the Hood (1991)
For fans of Straight Outta Compton, this movie creates a portrait of what inner city area Crenshaw, a Los Angeles neighborhood was like for its black residents in the '90s. Its messages about gentrification and violence still feel sharp as ever in this tale about half brothers Doughboy (Ice Cube) and Ricky (Morris Chestnut). While Ricky looks to football for salvation, Doughboy goes towards violence and drugs while maintaining his own code of honor. These brothers get tangled with their friend Tre and his father who tries to teach responsibility. It's a movie that explores masculinity and struggle in a really poignant way that may have still resonate on certain levels while aging on others. It's got an intense and hypnotic energy.
I'm only scratching the surface here, would love to know what kinds of favorites you may have. Ta ta for now!
ABOUT WHAT SHE’S WATCHING
Hi y'all, my name is Pilar and I am a filmmaker & lover who has gotten overwhelmed by suggestions at film school parties and didn't know where to start. I'm hoping this column will give you some hors d'oeuvres to chew on and help you discover other great movies to inspire your own filmmaking. This is a safe space no judgement if you haven't seen it, in fact, I'm very jealous of you right now for getting to experience some of this for the first time.