“The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible.” —Toni Cade Bambara
Artists, specifically the creatives who bring movies and documentaries to our screens, are weavers of narrative and truth. They also have the greatest potential to make facts stick with compelling stories brought to life. As such, films are incredibly powerful tools for better understanding topics and sparking conversation. As media coverage around Black Lives Matter wanes, it’s important to maintain your commitment to the movement. Ahead, 10 films you and your loved ones can watch together to stay engaged and sustain the conversation surrounding people, politics, policy, and power.
Stanley Nelson’s The Black Panthers: Vanguard of The Revolution
The Black Panther Party is generally admired and heralded among the Black community, while mostly condemned and feared in white communities. This schism is a microcosm of the larger divides between how different people see history. This PBS documentary myth-busts the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and provides a front-row view into who they were and what they accomplished.
PBS’s The Talk: Race In America
“The Talk” is a clear demonstration of the different realities in this country. For some families, The Talk refers to discussing sex with young children, but for Black people (and Arab and Latinx communities), The Talk is when children discover police don’t always protect and serve. On the contrary, they often racially profile and kill. This coming-of-age reality is a survival tactic we wouldn’t need if every parent—especially every white parent—were having open, honest conversations about race with their children.
Watch Now on PBS
The Angola 3: Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation
While abolition feels like a relatively new topic, activists and thought leaders have been advocating for such deep transformation for decades. The Angola 3 tells the story of the men who have endured solitary confinement longer than any known incarcerated people, showing how one of the largest slave plantations transitioned into one of the most brutal and racist prisons in the country.
Watch Now Free with Amazon Prime
Ava DuVernay’s 13th
There is no better documentary for understanding how the criminal justice system is rigged to ensure a permanent under-class. Tracing the lineage from slavery to dehumanization to the creation of “crime” to ensure the regeneration of the system, Ava DuVernay makes the problem clear and points us towards a future without prisons and police.
Watch Now on Netflix
Jane Elliott’s Blue Eyed
Jane Elliott’s work often goes viral on social media for how clearly she depicts white privilege and the need for active anti-racist work. In Blue Eyed, you’ll see an expanded look at a session on discrimination and racism she delivered to a white audience decades ago. You’ll be surprised at how relevant it still is.
Watch Now on Vimeo
Just Mercy is a compelling film that highlights the injustice of wrongful convictions—specifically, how hard advocates must fight to prevent state-sanctioned executions of Black people who are too poor or criminalized to go up against a system trying to bury them. You’ll walk away angry about the unfairness of it all, but also excited about the leadership of people like Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative team.
Read the Book
As protests consume the country, politicians and law enforcement alike are decrying “looting” and property damage, but making little to no mention of the over-surveillance and brutality that takes place under the cover of “chaos” and “restoring order.” Detroit is a cautionary tale that the citizens of Ferguson know all too well, chronicling the dangers of sending militarized armies to quell the righteous anger of protestors.
This 2014 film chronicles the 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery in defense of voting rights and racial equity. The movie is a powerful dramatization of the high stakes Black activists went up against and provides insight into the internal politics of social justice movements.
The Stanford Prison Experiment
Black activists around the country are calling for abolition and divestment from the police and prison projects. This feels rash for those unfamiliar with the history of attempts at reform, which exposed just how impossible it is to correct abuse of power. The Stanford Prison Experiment dramatizes a real study that explores why prison guards—and people in similar positions of power—turn to abuse and dehumanization. As the saying goes “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
The fear of abolition for many is the threat to public safety. Unfortunately, our current criminal “justice” system is systematically incapable of actually delivering justice. Thus, we have the potential to build something in its place that serves survivors and victims, while not creating new victims in an attempt to hold people accountable. Unbreakable showcases an example of how our justice system fails us—and the opportunity to rebuild from the ground up.
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