While local rep theaters are out of commission, we'll be putting together weekly watchlists of films readily available to stream. As February is Black History Month, we've highlighted five narrative and documentary films that celebrate the Black experience while simultaneously exposing, confronting and interrogating America's cruel and violent history.
Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)
In Shaka King's immensely powerful biopic, we follow Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) and the man who sold him out (LaKeith Stanfield) in the months leading up to the FBI's villainous assassination of Hampton in 1969. He was just 21 years old. Featuring masterful performances all around, it's everything last year's muddled The Trial of the Chicago 7 thought it was. HBO Max.
Written and directed by Julie Dash, this 34-minute revisionist drama explores how "the influence of that screen cannot be overestimated." Set in a fictional 1940s film studio, a biracial producer (Lonette McKee) presumed to be white by her co-workers oversees a Black woman dub the singing voice for a white woman, and reflects on her community's inexcusable invisibility in the industry. Criterion Channel, Kanopy.
LA 92 (2017)
Using rare archival footage collected from over 1,700 hours of recordings, this critically acclaimed National Geographic documentary chronicles the events of the 1992 Los Angeles uprising, which was ignited after a jury acquitted four police officers who publicly and excessively beat Rodney King. Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix, Vudu, YouTube.
Black Is…Black Ain't (1994)
As filmmaker-activist Marlon Riggs was dying from AIDS at age 37, he decided to make one last documentary about Black identity and experience. Featuring interviews with Angela Davis, bell hooks and other prominent Black figures, Riggs demonstrates how the rigid expectations of "Blackness" play into colorism, sexism, homophobia and more. Criterion Channel, Kanopy.
One Night in Miami… (2020)
Academy Award-winning actress Regina King steps behind the camera for her directorial debut based on Kemp Powers' eponymous play. One Night in Miami is a fictional account of the real-life February 1964 meeting between Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.). Amazon Prime.