When They See Us miniseries dir. AVA DuVERNAY (2019)
True story of the children wrongly accused in the Central Park jogger case of 1989, then exonerated 12 years later when the perpetrator confessed. It’s a four-parter focusing on the boys and their families, brimming with empathy and anger over the epic absence of justice.
Love in a time of racism
If Beale Street Could Talk dir. BARRY JENKINS (2018)
Based on the 1974 novel by James Baldwin, this Oscar-winner written and directed by Jenkins (of Moonlight renown) focuses on the family bonds between African-American families, and a love story beset by tribulations.
The Hate U Give dir. GEORGE TILLMAN JNR (2018)
Amandla Stenberg stars in this dynamic BLM-era drama that sees a high-school student witness a police shooting, and follows her subsequent bumpy journey towards authenticity.
Essential wake-up call
13th dir. AVA DuVERNAY (2016)
A genuine must-see, dealing revelation after revelation, this gripping doc examines the unbroken thread linking chattel slavery, systemic racism and mass incarceration in the USA.
powerful, poetic politics
I Am Not Your Negro dir. RAOUL PECK (2016)
Personal-meets-political history of racism in the US, narrated by Samuel L Jackson and based on James Baldwin’s unfinished memoir of his friends and civil rights leaders Medgar Evans, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
Power to the people
Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution dir. STANLEY NELSON JR (2015)
Interviews with Panthers and FBI officers combine with unseen archive footage in this corrective to the usual sensationalist story of the Black Panthers, radical revolutionaries whose demands were for food, housing, justice and peace.
Blazing civil-rights history
Selma dir. AVA DUVERNAY (2014)
Powerful biopic/historical drama, not without its controversies (not least that it should have been a shoo-in for an Oscar), Selma centres on the 1965 voting march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, led by Martin Luther King, played uncannily here by David Oyelowo.
Dear White People dir. JUSTIN SIMIEN (2014)
The hit movie that spawned an even bigger Netflix series (fourth and final season coming soon) wittily debates issues around US race relations from the perspective of a number of Black students attending a fictitious Ivy League college.
Story behind the statistics
Fruitvale Station dir. RYAN COOGLER (2013)
Coogler’s first feature won a grand jury prize at Sundance for its dramatisation of the last day of Oscar Grant’s life, cut short in the early morning of New Year’s Day 2009 when he was murdered by police at a subway station in Oakland.
hollywood on civil rights
Mississippi Burning dir. ALAN PARKER (1988)
Willem Dafoe and Gene Hackman star in this good cop/bad cop FBI thriller set in a Klan-infested rural county in the 1960s, replete with twists, turns and burning crosses.
Timeless pop-culture brilliance
Do The Right Thing dir. SPIKE LEE (1989)
Funny, sexy, cool modern classic, melding racial tensions in boiling-hot Brooklyn with social observation and a banging soundtrack. If it was good enough for Michelle and Barack Obama’s first date…
Black history classic
Roots (1977 miniseries)
Never mind the controversy about historical accuracy – brace yourself for the emotional heft of this hugely influential saga following the American descendants of Kunta Kinte, a Gambian man enslaved and brought to Maryland in 1767.