Films

 

Films, Fresh Ideas, and Forging Ahead

director's cut

“Film provides an opportunity to marry the power of ideas with the power of images.”  - Steven Bochco, producer and writer

“I may be alone in this, but I do sense the power of film, in that movies have the ability to literally change people's minds. That's pretty powerful stuff when you consider that.”  - Nicolas Cage, actor

mother and daughter in street

Getting Started

The Express, Remember the Titans, Akeelah & the Bee, West Side Story, and Hidden Figures are all great films to watch with your children who are at least 10 years old.

The remainder of the films in this section would be best viewed by young people who are at least 13 years old.

42:  The Jackie Robinson Story (2013)  PG-13

In 1946, Branch Rickey, legendary manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, defies major league baseball's notorious color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson to the team. Facing open racism from all sides, Robinson demonstrates true courage and admirable restraint by not reacting in kind and lets his undeniable talent silence the critics for him.

Akeelah & the Bee (2006)  PG

Akeelah, an 11-year-old girl living in South Los Angeles, discovers she has a talent for spelling, which she hopes will take her to the National Spelling Bee. Despite her mother's objections, Akeelah doesn't give up on her goal. She finds help in the form of a mysterious teacher, and along with overwhelming support from her community, Akeelah might just have what it takes to make her dream come true.

Black or White (2014)  PG-13

When his wife dies in a car crash, Elliott Anderson fields another blow: the realization that he must raise his biracial granddaughter, Eloise alone. However, the child's paternal grandmother, Rowena feels that she is better equipped to take care of the child, and sues for custody. With Eloise caught in the middle, both Elliott and Rowena are forced to confront their true feelings about race, forgiveness and understanding.

Dances with Wolves (1990)  PG-13

A Civil War soldier develops a relationship with a band of Lakota Indians. Attracted by the simplicity of their lifestyle, he chooses to leave his former life behind to be with them. Having observed him, they give the name Dances With Wolves. Soon he is a welcomed member of the tribe and falls in love with a white woman who has been raised in the tribe. Tragedy results when Union soldiers arrive with designs on the land.

The Express (2009)  PG

Born into poverty, Ernie Davis overcomes many obstacles to get into Syracuse University's football program. Under the guidance of Coach Ben Schwartzwalder, Davis becomes one of the school's best players, even surpassing Jim Brown's achievements. In 1961 Davis becomes the first black player to win the Heisman Trophy, but there is one more obstacle in his life that he must overcome.

Hidden Figures (2016)  PG

Three brilliant African-American women at NASA -- Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson  -- serve as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation's confidence, turned around the Space Race and galvanized the world.

Invictus  (2009)  PG-13

Following the fall of apartheid, newly elected President Nelson Mandela faces a South Africa that is racially and economically divided. Believing he can unite his countrymen through the universal language of sport, Mandela joins forces with Francois Pienaar, captain of the rugby team, to rally South Africans behind a bid for the 1995 World Cup Championship.

Lion (2016)  PG-13

Five year old Saroo gets lost on a train which takes him thousands of miles across India, away from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone in Kolkata, before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.

Remember the Titans (2000)  PG

In Virginia, high school football is a way of life, an institution revered, each game celebrated more lavishly than Christmas, each playoff distinguished more grandly than any national holiday. And with such recognition, comes powerful emotions. In 1971 high school football was everything to the people of Alexandria. But when the local school board was forced to integrate an all black school with an all white school, the very foundation of football's great tradition was put to the test.

West Side Story (1961)  PG

A musical in which a modern day Romeo and Juliet are involved in New York street gangs. On the harsh streets of the upper west side, two gangs battle for control of the turf. The situation becomes complicated when a gang members falls in love with a rival's sister.

asian folks on laptops

Intermediate

The films in this category tackle more challenging issues within the social construct of race.  Many of these movies focus on events within American history which are rarely discussed or taught.

A Time to Kill (1996)  R

Carl Lee Hailey is a heartbroken black father who avenges his daughter's brutal rape by shooting the bigoted men responsible for the crime as they are on their way to trial. He turns to Jake Brigance, an untested lawyer, to defend him. Brigance struggles to believe that he can get Hailey acquitted in this small, segregated Southern town, given Hailey's race and the deliberate nature of his crimes, but Carl has unshakable faith in him.

AWAKE: A Dream From Standing Rock (2017) (documentary)  Not rated

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe peacefully resists the government's plan to construct an oil pipeline through their land.

Ghosts of Mississippi (1996)  PG-13

In this film based on actual events, black activist Medgar Evers is murdered in 1963, and much of the evidence points toward white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith. However, after two trials, De La Beckwith is acquitted twice by a jury of whites. Now, decades later in 1989, Evers' widow, Myrlie, thinks she has evidence to finally convict him. But no lawyer will touch the case except the young and brash Bobby DeLaughter.

Glory (1989)  R

Following the Battle of Antietam, Col. Robert Gould Shaw is offered command of the United States' first all-African-American regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. With junior officer Cabot Forbes, Shaw puts together a strong and proud unit, including the escaped slave Trip and the wise gravedigger John Rawlins. At first limited to menial manual tasks, the regiment fights to be placed in the heat of battle.

The Joy Luck Club (1993)  R

In San Francisco, a group of aging Chinese women meet regularly to trade familial stories while playing Mahjong. In a series of sixteen vignettes that spans generations and continents, this adaptation of Amy Tan's bestselling novel explores cultural conflict and the often-turbulent relationships between four first-generation Chinese-American women and their mothers.

Mi Familia (My Family)  (1995)  R

A second-generation Mexican immigrant narrates his family history, beginning with the journey of his father, Jose, across Mexico to Los Angeles where he meets Maria and starts a family. Each subsequent generation contends with political and social hardships, ranging from illegal deportations in the 1940s to racial tensions and gang fights in the '60s and '70s. Yet through it all, or perhaps because of it, the family remains strong.

Rosewood (1997)  R

Rosewood, Florida, is a small, peaceful town with an almost entirely African-American population of middle-class homeowners, until New Year's Day 1923, when a lynch mob from a neighboring white community storms the town. Among the carnage, music teacher Sylvester and mysterious stranger Mann stand tall against the invaders, while white grocer John attempts to save the town's women and children. The film is based on a true story.

Selma (2014) PG-13

Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South, discrimination was still rampant in certain areas, making it very difficult for blacks to register to vote. In 1965, an Alabama city became the battleground in the fight for suffrage. Despite violent opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers pressed forward on an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, and their efforts culminated in President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Something the Lord Made (2004) (docudrama)  Not rated

Although Vivien Thomas, a black man in the 1930s, is originally hired as a janitor, he proves himself adept at assisting the "Blue Baby doctor," Alfred Blalock, with his medical research. When Blalock insists that Thomas follow him to Johns Hopkins University, they must find a way to skirt a racist system to continue their study of infant heart disease. Thomas is indispensable to Blalock's progress, but Blalock is the only one who is allowed to receive the acclaim.

Stand and Deliver (1988)  PG

Los Angeles high school teacher Jaime Escalante is being hassled by tough students like Angel Guzman. But Jaime is also pressured by his bosses, who want him to control his raucous classroom. Caught in the middle, he opts to immerse his students in higher math. After intensive study, his students ace California's calculus test, only to learn that their scores are being questioned. They'll have to retake the exam in order to quiet the critics.

group of young latina women

Advanced

These films in this final section address the complex, often painful results of living in a racialized society.  Their content will spark conversation!!  These movies are for mature audiences only!!  They are also for those who are truly engaged in their racial justice journey.

American History X  (1998)  R

Living a life marked by violence and racism, neo-Nazi Derek Vinyard finally goes to prison after killing two black youths who tried to steal his car. Upon his release, Derek vows to change his ways; he hopes to prevent his younger brother, Danny, who idolizes Derek, from following in his footsteps. As he struggles with his own deeply ingrained prejudices and watches their mother grow sicker, Derek wonders if his family can overcome a lifetime of hate.

Amistad (1997)  R

In 1839, the slave ship Amistad set sail from Cuba to America. During the long trip, Cinque leads the slaves in an unprecedented uprising. They are then held prisoner in Connecticut, and their release becomes the subject of heated debate. Freed slave Theodore Joadson wants Cinque and the others exonerated and recruits property lawyer Roger Baldwin to help his case. Eventually, John Quincy Adams also becomes an ally.

Birth of a Nation (2016)  R

Nat Turner is an enslaved Baptist preacher who lives on a Virginia plantation owned by Samuel Turner. With rumors of insurrection in the air, a cleric convinces Samuel that Nate should sermonize to other slaves, thereby quelling any notions of an uprising. As Nate witnesses the horrific treatment of his fellow man, he realizes that he can no longer just stand by and preach. On Aug. 21, 1831, Turner's quest for justice and freedom leads to a violent and historic rebellion in Southampton County.

The Canary Effect  (2006) (documentary) Not rated

An investigation of the effects of U.S. policies on indigenous people in America.

Crash (2004)  R

Writer-director Paul Haggis interweaves several connected stories about race, class, family and gender in Los Angeles in the aftermath of 9/11. Characters include a district attorney and his casually prejudiced wife, a victimized Middle Eastern store owner and a wealthy African-American couple humiliated by a racist traffic cop.

Detroit (2017)  R

In the summer of 1967, rioting and civil unrest starts to tear apart the city of Detroit. Two days later, a report of gunshots prompts the Detroit Police Department, the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Army National Guard to search and seize an annex of the nearby Algiers Motel. Several policemen start to flout procedure by forcefully and viciously interrogating guests to get a confession. By the end of the night, three unarmed men are gunned down while several others are brutally beaten.

Get Out (2017) R

Now that Chris and his girlfriend, Rose, have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family's overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter's interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined.

Mississippi Burning (1988)  R

When a group of civil rights workers goes missing in a small Mississippi town, FBI agents Alan Ward and Rupert Anderson are sent in to investigate. Local authorities refuse to cooperate with them, and the African American community is afraid to, precipitating a clash between the two agents over strategy.  The film is based on the FBI's investigation into the 1964 Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner murder case in Mississippi.

Teach Us All (2017) (documentary)  Not rated

Filmmakers use the legacy of the Little Rock Nine to examine today's inequities in education.

13th (2016) (documentary)  Not rated

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation's prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans.