30 Day Movie Challenge: Black Film Edition
With so many people seeking out Black films right now, it seemed as good a time as any to do a Black Film edition of the 30 Day Movie Challenge.
Day 7 (A film that you never get tired of)
Director: Steve McQueen
McQueen gives us a visually stunning answer to the question—what would it take for a group of marginalized women to plan a heist? As a Chicago native, I never get tired of such an accurate depiction of the city’s tensions regarding race, class, and politics. Viola Davis and Cynthia Erivo serving us melanated femme realness with the best scenes involving them sharing only a look. David Kaluuya is surprisingly convincing as a pretty boy henchman that’s more brutal that he looks. Liam Neeson plays nearly the same role as always, proving that if Taken had centered Black women, they’d have gotten the job done faster.
Day 10 (Your Favorite Superhero film)
Title: Black Panther
Director: Ryan Coogler
A movie that became a phenomenon, forever putting to rest questions of if Superhero films can succeed by targeting Black audiences. The warrior Black women wielding advanced tech straight out of an Afrofuturistic dream is enough alone to have me glued to my seat. Coogler and his mostly Black production team took comic nerds and action film fans alike to Wakanda and now we never want to come back.
Day 11 (A film you like from your least favorite genre)
Title: Ganja & Hess
Director: Bill Gunn
As a big ole scaredy cat I don’t love horror, but I adore this film that walked so Get Out could run. Mysterious Black millionaires, vampires, and intrigue. What more could you ask for from a spooky Black throwback?
Day 12 (A film that put you in deep thoughts)
Director: Trey Edward Shults
This film is SO hard to describe. Content warning for many dark and potentially triggering themes, but with long sequences that are so quiet and reflective they stick with you. There’s a particularly brave switching of perspectives in the middle that really hooked me in. It’s so thought provoking that I’m not even sure how much I liked it, but I’ll definitely be thinking about it for a while. If you’re a fan of Hamilton or This Is Us, Sterling K. Brown and Renee Elise Goldsberry really flex their acting range.
Day 14 (A film that gave you depression)
Title: Mississippi Damned
Director: Tina Mabry
It’s a gut-wrenching film about the struggles of a Black family in Tupelo, Mississippi. Best known for launching Tessa Thompson’s career, it has some of the best acting performances I’ve seen to date. Mabry tells her own story about growing up a Black lesbian in the south and gives us a genuine queer gaze in her directing. Long story short—Bust out the Kleenex!
Day 15 (A Film that makes you happy)
Director: Wanuri Kahiu
From the bright “Afro-Bubble Gum” pastel aesthetic to the cute forbidden romance, Rafiki is the representation of Black lesbian love that I didn’t know I needed. Though the film was banned in its home country of Kenya, it had raving success at the Cannes festival. It looks like a love letter to Nairobi, replacing the stereotypical depictions of Africa we’re used to, with stunning shots of a vibrant city. Kahiu gives us two women who create carefree space in each other despite navigating a place in which homosexuality is outlawed.
Day 18 (A film that stars your favorite actress)
Title: If Beale Street Could Talk
Director: Barry Jenkins
Gotta shout out the masterpiece that FINALLY earned Regina King the Oscar she was owed. I’d watch truly anything with her in it, but like all of Jenkins’ work everything is so well lit and shot that the film feels like an Ode to melanin itself. Nice to see 70s Harlem through the lens of a Black femme protagonist, reflecting the beauty of James Baldwin’s writing. Watching it still gives me chills.
Day 19 (a film made by my favorite director)
Title: Daughters of the Dust
Director: Julie Dash
Julie Dash showed cinephiles what happens when Black women are calling the shots behind the camera. It’s a story that always reminds me of the importance of Black women sharing their experiences with each other as a means of healing their intergenerational trauma. Through the STUNNING cinematography of Arthur Jafa, I was entranced by the gorgeous landscape of Saint Helena Island while the film reminds me of the painful history just beneath its surface. I’ll never get tired of this film.
Day 20 (a film that changed my life)
Title: The Watermelon Woman
Director: Cheryl Dunye
I can’t even write about this film without getting sappy and choked up. Dunye is such a visionary that she somehow managed to make a film that is a documentary, comedy, romance, and a period piece all at once. When I watched this, it completely changed my relationship to cinema. It taught me the importance of imagining Black queer futures in a world where we’re constantly reminded of our mortality. It also taught me that there is no limit to what a film can be. Dunye. Is. A. Fucking. Icon.
Day 24 (a film I wish I’d seen in theaters)
Title: Miss Juneteenth
Director: Channing Godfrey Peoples
Even though this movie’s release was ruined by Rona, it allowed me to watch this film on the couch with my family on Juneteenth. The film centers on a long tradition within Black Texan culture to honor Freedom Day, but it focuses even more on the relationship between a mother and her daughter. My mother and I both attended HBCUs in Mississippi so we couldn’t help but share a smile during a scene that features a great conversation between the main characters about the importance of HBCUs to Black students. Nicole Beharie’s performance is no less than riveting.
Day 26 (A film you like that is adapted from somewhere)
Title: A Wrinkle In Time
Director: Ava DuVernay
I’m a hardcore DuVernay stan, and though this film certainly isn’t my favorite movie of hers, only she could take the white ass writing of Madeleine L’Engle and turn it into a cute story about a little Black girl saving the world. Also, Oprah basically plays herself, yet somehow even larger than life with an enviable Afro-futuristic makeover. Chris Pine is also cute as hell as a disoriented father trying to fight for his kids. There’s a reason we call it the DuVernay test.
Day 27 (A film that is visually striking to you)
Title: An Oversimplification of her Beauty
Director: Terence Nance
This is another film that’s actually really hard to describe. If you’ve seen Nance’s other work on HBO’s Random Acts of Flyness then you know how wild and captivating his aesthetic is. Not only does he play with colors, shapes, and edges, but Nance also incorporates at least 4 different mediums that make the film feel like a journey through visual culture. Nance’s work always unabashedly targets Black audiences while still centering a left of center depiction of gender and sexuality. The aesthetic and pacing can take some getting used to for the first few minutes, but it’s worth the watch nonetheless. This movie will surprise you in the best way.
Day 29 (A Film that makes you want to fall in love)
Title: The Photograph
Director: Stella Meghie
When I saw that Issa Rae was starring in a romance set in New Orleans, I was already hype for the release. The film turned out to be even more than I expected, since it actually tells three different Black love stories. It shouldn’t be notable that it features dark-skinned Black love interests, but unfortunately it’s not something we’ve seen much outside of Queen & Slim. Everything from the iconic soundtrack (Al Green, Luther Vandross, & H.E.R. …I know) to the shots of Issa slow dancing with Lakeith in a flowy yellow dress makes me wanna fall in love all over again. I should admit though that I went to see it with my partner on Valentine’s Day, so I was bound to feel the love. If you want a picture of Black love, this is definitely the film for it…pun intended ;)
Day 30 (a film with my favorite ending)
Title: The Fits
Director: Anna Rose Holmer
This film is so good because it lures you in with its simplistic plot. It seems to be a film about a girl trying to balance both boxing and drill team, but the speculative elements creep in so seamlessly that I have to remind myself that they’re impossible. “Catching the fits” is still one of the best allegories for Coming of Age as a Black girl that I’ve ever seen. The score is just as memorable as the film itself. The ending though is SO twisty and good that I had to roll it back and watch it again just to be sure that it happened.