10 Essential Movies From Black Filmmakers To Stream Online Right Now


As protesters across the United States and Canada take to the streets to demand an end to police brutality and anti-Black racism, there has been a surge of interest in auteur books and films and black artists, as well as works that deal specifically with racism. In response, streaming platform Criterion Channel and VOD service Cineplex made films by black directors or about black subjects available for free. Here are some of our favorite films from black filmmakers, including several Canadian titles, that you should add to your watch list.

Across the line

(Director X., 2015)

X.’s feature debut stars Scarborough’s Stephan James as a hockey prodigy (Stephan James) who finds his prospects compromised by the drag of his older brother (Shamier Anderson, James’ real-life older brother)…and by racial tensions simmering at his high school. It’s not a new story, but James’ magnetic performance and X.’s attention to detail bring it to life. This film is not interested in downplaying its ugliest aspects in order to attract mass audiences. It just shows us the world these characters are trapped in and leaves us there with them. Norman Wilner

Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, Hoopla and Gem.

black cop

(Cory Bowles, 2017)

Developed by writer/director Bowles from his 2016 short, this edgy, edgy drama is just as relevant – and just as angry – as it was when it first premiered. Star Trek: Discovery’s Ronnie Rowe Jr. is terrific as the unnamed protagonist, a beaten up cop in an East Coast town who impulsively spends a day treating white civilians the way white cops treat black people: with unnecessary hostility, physical threats and even violence. Rowe’s mercurial performance lends an edge to the character’s more innocuous interactions, while Bowles films the action from multiple angles and scores the film with furious hip-hop and angry radio callers to give a sense of the conversation that’s going on. takes place in the background. But the film’s boldest creative decision is to risk dividing audiences by arguing that there’s really only one side to this problem. NO

Available to stream on Hoopla and Gem.



daughters of dust

(Julie Dash, 1991)

Set in coastal South Carolina’s Gullah community in 1902, where a family gathers to bid farewell to one of their own, Dash’s beautiful dream drama has spent nearly a quarter of a century in limbo before that Beyoncé and director Melina Matsoukas refer to her evocative images for visual album Lemonade. The resulting attention gave Daughters Of The Dust the chance to claim the cultural status it always deserved, and a new generation to experience Dash’s meditation on how the scars of slavery fade. extend across the African Diaspora. NO

Available to stream on Netflix and Criterion Channel.

Love, sex and eating the bones

(Sudz Sutherland, 2003)

Structurally speaking, Sutherland’s feature debut is a fairly standard romantic comedy about a flawed but essentially decent guy (Hill Harper) who falls in love with a wonderful woman (Marlyne Afflack), only to find their happiness undermined by his own neuroses. But the world Sutherland builds around his characters is remarkably specific and authentic, capturing a sense of multicultural Toronto at the turn of the millennium. And yes, it’s Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies as Harper’s good-natured white pal trying a little too hard to fit in – which I’m sure is Sutherland’s inversion of the sitcom trope “a black friend”. NO

Available for rental and purchase on iTunes, Google Play and YouTube.

Nurse. Fighter. Boy.

(Charles Officer, 2008)

The stylized character study for Officer follows three characters – played by Karen LeBlanc, Clark Johnson and Daniel J. Gordon – as they face isolation and illness and slowly form a bond. Visually arresting and emotionally delicate, this is a film that is more concerned with simple truths than complex plots. And the actors are more than capable of delivering these truths: LeBlanc (ReGenesis, Cracked) is positively magnetic and Johnson (Homicide: Life On The Street) gives one of the best performances of his long career. Officer spent the next decade working in television and documentaries, making the moving Toronto studies Unarmed Verses and The Skin We’re In as well as the lyrical exploration Little Prince Invisible Essence, but we still hold out hope that he will another feature film. Look at this, and so will you. NO

Available for rental and purchase on iTunes.

A wrong move

(Carl Franklin, 1992)

Franklin spent decades as a character actor before stepping behind the camera for some forgettable direct-to-video footage. One False Move was to be his third, except that it turned out to be a key film in the American neo-noir wave: a perfectly calibrated thriller about a band of thieves (Michael Beach, Cynda Williams and an unknown screenwriter named Billy Bob Thornton) on a collision course with a small-town Arkansas sheriff (Bill Paxton). You can watch it for the masterful suspense and sharp characterization – the first sign that Thornton and his writing partner Tom Epperson were destined for greatness – or you can look a little deeper and see the powerful race and class nodes. that intertwine throughout the story. Franklin would explore similar topics three years later with his exquisite adaptation of Devil In A Blue Dress, but you’ve probably seen that movie before. Catch this one. NO

Available for rental and purchase on iTunes, Google Play, YouTube and Cineplex.



The photograph

(Stella Meghie, 2020)

Canadian writer and director Meghie’s lush romance stars Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield as two New Yorkers who fall for each other just as their lives are thrown into separate upheavals – she comes of losing his mother and he plans to move to London. A brooding, beautiful film that slips through time to create a thoughtful story about how children’s lives contrast with their parents’, The Photograph has the vibe of an independent film while making full use of its attributes of studio. And Meghie also takes full advantage of Rae and Stanfield’s incredible chemistry. NO

Available for rental and purchase on iTunes, Google Play, Cineplex, YouTube and Microsoft.

Junior Brown’s Planet

(Clement Virgo, 1997)

With his short film Save My Lost Nigga Soul and his feature debut Rude, Clement Virgo has made a name for himself as a transgressive and confrontational Toronto filmmaker. So he was quite surprised when he announced that his next project would be a CBC adaptation of Virginia Hamilton’s young adult novel about a piano prodigy (Martin Villafana) growing up downtown. The resulting film — co-adapted by Virgo and then-screenwriter Cameron Bailey — is one of Virgo’s finest, an empathetic drama in which the hero’s racialized status is still just below the surface. NO

Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video and Tubi.

Survive the game

(Ernest Dickerson, 1994)

Dickerson was already an acclaimed cinematographer before turning to directing, having given Spike Lee’s first six features their vibrant and distinctive look. As a director, he revealed a deep love of the genre, investing action comedies, thrillers and horror films with a sense of self-conscious fun. (Check out Tales From The Crypt Presents Demon Knight from time to time.) This one – a riff on The Most Dangerous Game that features Ice-T as a homeless man who turns the tables on the cabal of wealthy white sadists who decided to hunt him for sport – finds Dickerson serving up barbed social commentary amid all the chasing and bleeding. A quarter of a century later, most of it still lands. NO

Available for rental or purchase on iTunes, Google Play, Microsoft, YouTube and Cineplex.



The hate you give

(George Tillman, Jr., 2018)

With its allusions to Black Lives Matter, subtle white racism, police brutality, and Tupac’s THUG LIFE tattoo and activism, Angie Thomas’ YA novel feels as timely today as it did three years ago. when it is published. The film version captures much of its power. Amandla Stenberg plays Starr, a young black girl who finds herself the only eyewitness to the police shooting of her childhood sweetheart (Algee Smith). She doesn’t know if she should reveal her identity and testify against the white cop or remain silent. Matters are complicated by the fact that the local drug lord – who is also her half-brother’s father – wants her to shut up, and her privileged white friends at school have misconceptions about the crime.

Screenwriter Audrey Wells and director George Tillman, Jr. struggled to fit all of the novel’s strands into the film, resulting in underdeveloped characters and an overly long runtime. But Tillman, Jr. effectively handles key scenes — including the shooting and other instances of police brutality — by contrasting them with inspired bits of comic relief. And it gets solid work from the cast, especially the charismatic Smiths, Regina Hall and Russell Hornsby as supportive parents to Starr and Stenberg, whose transition from conflicted daughter to angry, self-reliant activist is exciting to watch. to look at. Glenn Sumi

Available to stream on Crave, iTunes, Cineplex and more.


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