BLACK FILMS KICKED 2018’S ASS
By Erin White
December 12, 2018
Black folks have been making seriously important, killer films for more than 50 years and every year they seem to get better and better. 2018 was no exception.
With no shortage of diverse, interesting stories to tell, Black filmmakers and storytellers opened us up to their fictional worlds from the aboriginal Northern Territory in Australia to Wakanda. Filmmakers like Steve McQueen and Terence Nance took us on unexpected rides that challenged genre restraints and opened us to experimental forms of storytelling. We are entering a Golden Age of Black cinema where a plethora of stories are being so well-told the white folks at the award shows are moving the goalposts of cinematic exceptionalism to keep us out. But that shit ain’t gon’ work and even if it did, we don’t need trophies to be excellent.
Dir. Warwick Thornton
Set in the 1920s on the Northern Territory of Australia, this western follows the story of Sam Kelly, an Aboriginal man who kills a white war veteran in self-defense, and is on the run from law enforcement with his wife. Think Mudbound set in Australia. It’s a gripping exploration of indigenous oppression under colonial rule and the sharecropper dynamics we’re more familiar with in the States.
Dir. Michael Larnell
A heartbreaking, frustrating story about a young battle MC from Queens, Roxanne Roxanne chronicles the under-told story of rapper Roxanne Shanté. The drama is also a heartfelt love letter to hip hop itself. The film co-stars Chanté Adams, Mahershala Ali, and Nia Long.
Sorry To Bother You
Dir. Boots Riley
A surrealist thrill ride that examines race, tokenism, capitalism, and more. Boot Rileys’ feature-length drama is an experimental masterpiece staring Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson. The quirkiest of the bunch, Sorry follows Standfield’s Cassius “Cash” Green as he starts a new job at a telemarketing center in Oakland. Here, Cash is undertaken into a world of capitalistic white supremacy where he must choose between the conspiracy and the union.
Dir. Spike Lee
A huge stand out this year and not solely because of its Spike Lee joint status, this satirical drama takes watchers on an unsettling ride through a new Black cop’s experience on the force in the 1970s.
Like another notable film on our list, Blackkklansman is a surrealist journey behind the white curtain of the Ku Klux Klan. There we find a group of inarticulate, conspiratorial loons who seek to rid the community of, you know, all the non-white, non-hetero members. With a handful of stupid plans to terrorize Black citizens, Detective Flip Zimmerman and Detective Ron Stallworth infiltrate a chapter of the KKK to subvert their sinister plans to terrorize Black citizens. The white devils of the film don’t exactly learn their lesson, but Lee’s examination of human cruelty is both fascinating and chilling.
I Am Not a Witch
Dir. Rungano Nyoni
A stunning work of visual storytelling, I Am Not a Witch takes place in Zambia as an eight-year-old girl Shula is sent to a witches’ camp after a banal incident at her local village. Directed by Welsh-Zambian Rungano Nyoni, I Am Not a Witch is a satirical post-modern examination of post-colonial tourism and the occult. Told in a dry, wry voice, the film makes poignant statements about the gawking gaze of tourists as they venture towards the witches’ camp. As one might imagine, all is not what it seems as the “camp” becomes more like a prison.
Dir. Ryan Coogler
Yeah—this one goes without saying, but we’d be remiss not to mention what is possibly the greatest comic book movie of all time. More than that, this was a movie for Black Americans that explored the complexities of the diaspora without the storytelling being rooted in slavery narratives, what a concept.