With long summer days upon us and fewer television shows to choose from, now is the time to dive into the archives of Black cinema. From Oscar Micheaux’s 20th-century silent work to Marlon Riggs’ excellent documentary that cracked open the Black queer narrative in cinema to our more recent cherished films like Black Panther and Get Out, there is so much to explore in Black directed and Black cast films.
At a time when various voices are contributing different narratives to Black film, it’s important to see how complex Black stories have been throughout history. Micheaux’s race films, for example, were in direct response to white propaganda that was validating the Ku Klux Klan. Riggs’ Tongues Untied paved the way for Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, and Kathleen Collins opened the door for other Black female filmmakers like Julie Dash, Ava DuVernay, and Kasi Lemmons among others. Have you seen these movies?
Nothing But A Man
For its time, Nothing But A Man was revolutionary. Ivan Dixon starred as Duff Anderson a charismatic Pullman porter who sets his sights on Josie Dawson (Abbey Lincoln), a school teacher and preacher’s daughter during one of his trips down South. Though her father doesn’t approve, Josie and Duff fall in love and eventually marry. However, they must learn to weather the storms of their marriage and the deep racism of the Jim Crow South.
Nothing But A Man is a beautiful and nuanced work of art. The narrative also refuses to let Duff off the hook easily. Though racism and segregation contribute to his problems, his womanizing and anger also lead to issues of his own creation.
Set in Harlem in the ’90s, Ernest Dickerson’s iconic thriller Juice follows four young Black men, Bishop (Tupac Shakur), Q (Omar Epps), Steel (Jermaine Hopkins) and Raheem (Khalil Kain) whose lives change dramatically as a result of one tragic decision. With themes surrounding friendship, broken dreams, and the unpredictability of youth, the film is tragic and timeless.
Juice also proved to the world that the late Shakur was much more than just a West Coast rapper.
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