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Monday, July 06, 2020

Five films on racism you should watch

The perceived superiority of one's race over other, despite all contrary scientific evidence and despite the fact that we all belong to a single race, has caused a lot of bloodshed and suffering over the centuries. Here are five movies on racism that everybody should watch.

Written by Kshitij Rawat | New Delhi | Updated: June 5, 2020 6:37:02 pm
Ava DuVernay Selma A still from Ava DuVernay’s Selma. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)

The perceived superiority of one’s race over other, despite all contrary scientific evidence, has caused a lot of bloodshed and suffering over the centuries. Racism enabled slavery and Nazism, and it is a monster that rears his ugly head even in the 21st century on an almost daily basis.

Take, for instance, the killing of George Floyd in the US, just another act of racism in which a white cop uses his power to bully a black man and ends up killing him for a petty crime the “suspect” may not even have committed. The incident has caused protests that have turned violent in many places. Those protests have made it overtake the global coronavirus pandemic as the biggest story in the last few days. A deep understanding of racism and racial violence is thus need of the hour.

Here are five movies on racism that everybody should watch.

Get Out

This is a genre film and yet has an incredibly nuanced understanding as to why racism has endured for so long and indeed thrived. It is the complicity of the white liberals who are no less racist than their more outspoken counterparts. More than a horror film, this Jordan Peele directional can be better characterised as an unsettling film. It is its own genre. It takes a dig at the casual racism that is prevalent in the American society (“I wish I had well-developed muscles like you African-Americans” and the like) and crafts a thought-provoking yet entertaining tale around a black man whose white girlfriend takes him to meet her parents and, as listicle websites are fond of saying, you won’t believe what happened next.

BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman is a film in which social commentary blends seamlessly with caustic humour. (Photo: Focus Features)

If “social comedy” were a genre, Spike Lee would be its pioneer. Lee’s BlacKkKlansman is a film in which social commentary blends seamlessly with caustic humour. BlacKkKlansman, set in the 1970s, is based on the true story of an African-American police detective who goes undercover in order to infiltrate far-right white supremacist organisation Ku Klux Klan by posing as the Grand Wizard David Duke. Lee, known for regularly confronting subjects like racism, poverty, and other political issues, uses lots of humour to drive home his arguments this time.

12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave 12 Years a Slave is based on the memoirs of Solomon Northrup. (Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

12 Years a Slave is Steve McQueen’s heart-wrenching adaptation of a memoir of a black slave Solomon Northup. Chiwetel Ejiofor essayed the lead role in the film which also starred Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, and Alfre Woodard. The film was a brutal depiction of slavery and is a hard movie to watch.

Selma

The movie that made Ava DuVernay a globally respected filmmaker, Selma is about the Selma to Montgomery marches that were held in Selma, Alabama in 1965 and which led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — which prohibits racial discrimination in voting. David Oyelowo was spectacular to watch in the lead role of Martin Luther King, the iconic, Mahatma Gandhi-inspired civil rights activist.

Malcolm X

Whether or not you agree with Malcolm X’s methods, it is vital to study the man who was one of the frontrunners of the US Civil Rights Movement. It is generally understood that while Martin Luther King was inspired by Gandhi and believed social development was possible through non-violent means, Malcolm X was not averse to pick up arms. Denzel Washington was absolutely mesmerising in the lead role.

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