"When I’m connected to something, I immediately see a visual or a series of images that are tied to a feeling or an emotion, a memory from my childhood, thoughts about life, my dreams or my fantasies. And they’re all connected to the music.” - Beyoncé
My Recent Good Netflix Picks Featuring Black Actors
I recently watched Our Song (2000), Go For Sisters (2013), LUV(2012) and Yelling To The Sky (2011) on Netflix. All are pretty good films that feature prominent Black characters, and all except LUV feature prominent Black female characters with lots of screen time/script. I enjoyed all of the films because they depicted interesting and complex portraits of Blackness. (Click on the year of each film to see the IMDb page to see all of the Black actors cast in each.)
I didn’t get one-dimensional “positive” character to “react” to the White Gaze, nor did I get one-dimensional stereotype/archetype/controlling images without texture or substance from these films. The characters felt like people. And for each film I might’ve tweeted some critiques and perspectives, but for me enjoying a film isn’t clapping like a seal to each thing that happens, but an experience of entertainment itself, aesthetic adoration/critique (I’m a photographer), and engaging that content with a critical lens, but not doing so in that I cannot simply just enjoy the content like anyone else would. While I’m not going to post an extended film review of each, I will mention a bit about each, though during my live tweets while watching, I got into more detail; click film name to see the live tweets.
Our Song - Beautiful complicated portrayal of coming of age for 3 girls of colour. One is Black, one is Latina and one has one Black parent, one Latina parent (portrayed by a young Kerry Washington, by the way). I love the way friendship, mental health, suicide, gender/sexuality, abortion, pregnancy, and just Black girl interior life was dealt with. I related to a lot of things they experienced. (My only complaint would be that the Spanish in the film felt like it was shaped for a non-Spanish speaking gaze, which made it convoluted at times. Also, they could’ve cast an Afro Latina.)
Go For Sisters - Interesting portrayal of Black and brown relationships. While a few stereotypes surface (of both Black Americans and Mexicans) they never outweigh the depth and richness of the two lead Black female characters and their complex friendship, perceptions of love, motherhood, safety and identity, or the lead man’s role. Also, interesting look at the impact of prison industrial complex on women’s lives.
LUV - Incredible, well-acted depictions of Black men, not all “positive” or flat either. Nuanced. I mean, there’s a series of scenes where the lead character played by Common (he’s great in this) goes from Black man to Black man for help and they’re markedly different albeit clear shared experiences because of their perceptions of masculinity/power, which for many are patriarchal, but it seems almost like a critique of it is occurring. Black man as director, Sheldon Candis.
Yelling To The Sky - Complicated and painful but truly human film. Remarkable. I had to squint at certain parts because the acting is so compelling and so real (possibly triggering for survivors of IPV/DV) that I felt myself tense. Raises issues about familial abuse, partner abuse, colourism, poverty and drugs without thorough degradation of those characters. Also, it conveys the Black mother as vulnerable. VULNERABLE. As a person who is not some “beast” who likes/can take/deserves domestic violence, as Black women are regularly viewed as. As someone who struggles with mental health issues, but still conveyed as a person. Remarkable film; Black woman as director, Victoria Mahoney, and she frickin’ tweeted me! Complimented my perspectives I shared during my live tweets!
I really enjoyed these films; also check out Mother of George on Netflix. I didn’t live tweet that one but it is a remarkable film. Though Octavia Spencer isn’t the lead, I really really loved Snowpiercer (on iTunes). That film is everything, and I live tweeted that one as well. Belle is also on iTunes (though I saw this one in the theatre). If you recall, I shared an essay about it, as it is my favorite film that I’ve seen in 2014 thus far. Enjoy!