10 Essential Movies From Black Filmmakers To Stream Online Right Now

As protesters across the United States and Canada took to the streets to demand an end to police brutality and anti-black racism, there has been a resurgence of interest in the books and films of black authors and artists, as well as works that specifically tackle racism. In response, the Criterion Channel streaming platform and VOD service Cineplex made films by black directors or on 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 watchlist.

Across the line

(Director X., 2015)

X.’s feature debut stars Scarborough’s Stephan James as a hockey prodigy (Stephan James) who sees his prospects compromised by the drag of his older brother (Shamier Anderson, James’ real older brother) … and by the racial tensions that boil in his high school. It’s not a new story, but James’ magnetic performance and X’s eye for detail bring it to life. This film does not seek to downplay 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 tight, edgy drama is just as relevant – and just as angry – as it was when it was first created. Star Trek: Discovery’s Ronnie Rowe Jr. is formidable as the anonymous protagonist, a beat cop in an east coast town who spends a day impulsively treating white civilians the same way white cops treat blacks: with unnecessary hostility, physical threats and even violence. Rowe’s mercurial performance brings an edge to the character’s more harmless interactions, while Bowles films the action from multiple angles and marks the film with furious hip-hop and angry talk-radio callers to create a sense of the conversation going on in the background. But the film’s boldest creative move is to risk dividing audiences by arguing that there really is only one side to this question. NO

Available to stream on Hoopla and Gem.

Dust girls

(Julie Dash, 1991)

Set in the Gullah community of the South Carolina coast in 1902, where a family meets to bid farewell to one of their own, Dash’s magnificent and dreamlike drama has spent nearly a quarter of a century in the limbo before Beyoncé and director Melina Matsoukas made reference to her evocative. images for the Lemonade video album. The resulting attention gave Daughters Of The Dust the chance to claim the cultural status it has always deserved, and a new generation to experience Dash’s meditation on how the scars of slavery s ‘extend across the African diaspora. NO

Available to stream on Netflix and Criterion Channel.

Love, sex and eat bones

(Sudz Sutherland, 2003)

Structurally speaking, Sutherland’s feature debut is a pretty standard romantic comedy about an imperfect but essentially decent guy (Hill Harper) who falls in love with a great 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 Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson as Harper’s good-humored white buddy trying a little too hard to fit in – which I’m sure is Sutherland’s reversal of the trope of the sitcom “a black friend”. NO

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

Nurse. Fighter. Boy.

(Charles Officer, 2008)

The study of the stylized Officer character 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 striking and emotionally delicate, this is a film more interested in simple truths than complex storylines. 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 for television and documentaries, directing the Toronto studies Unarmed Verses and The Skin We’re In as well as the lyrical exploration of The Little Prince Invisible Essence, but we hope he will make another feature film. Watch this, and you will too. 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 footage on video. One False Move was supposed to be its third, except it turned out to be a key film in the American Neo-noir wave: a perfectly calibrated thriller about a group of thieves (Michael Beach, Cynda Williams, and an unknown screenwriter named Billy Bob Thornton) on a collision course with a small town sheriff in Arkansas (Bill Paxton). You can watch it for the masterful suspense and crisp 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 knots of race and class. blend in with 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 this movie before. Catch up with this one. NO

Available to rent and purchase on iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, and Cineplex.

The photograph

(Stella Meghie, 2020)

Canadian writer / director Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield star Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield as two New Yorkers who fall in love with each other as their lives turn into separate upheavals – she comes from lose his mother and he plans to move to London. A brooding beautiful film that slides back in time to create a thoughtful story of how children’s lives contrast with their parents’ lives, The Photograph has the vibe of an independent film while making full use of its studio pitfalls. . 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.

The planet of the junior brown

(Clement Virgo, 1997)

With his short film Save My Lost Nigga Soul and his first feature film 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 pianist prodigy (Martin Villafana) growing up in the downtown area. The resulting film – co-adapted by Virgo and then-film writer Cameron Bailey – is one of the best of Virgo, an empathetic drama in which the hero’s racial 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 feature films 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-aware pleasure. (Check out Tales From The Crypt Presents Demon Knight someday.) This one – a riff on The Most Dangerous Game that features Ice-T as a homeless man who reverses the roles on the cabal of wealthy white sadists who have decided to take him on. hunt for sport – finds Dickerson serving barbed wire social commentary amid all the chases and bleeding. A quarter of a century later, most of it is still landing. NO

Available to rent or purchase from 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 tattoo and THUG LIFE activism, Angie Thomas’ novel YA seems as timely today as it was. three years ago when it was published. The movie version grabs much of its power. Amandla Stenberg plays Starr, a young black girl who finds herself the only eyewitness to the police shooting on her childhood sweetheart (Algee Smith). She doesn’t know whether she should reveal her identity and testify against the white cop or remain silent. Things are complicated by the fact that the local drug lord – who is also her stepbrother’s father – wants her to shut up, and her privileged white friends at school have crazy misconceptions about the crime. .

Screenwriter Audrey Wells and director George Tillman, Jr. struggle to fit every aspect of the novel into the film, resulting in underdeveloped characters and too long a runtime. But Tillman, Jr. effectively handles the key scenes – including the shooting and other examples of police brutality – contrasting them with inspired pieces of comedic relief. And he gets a solid job from the cast, especially the charismatic Smith, Regina Hall, and Russell Hornsby as supporting parents of Starr and Stenberg, whose transition from conflicted girl to angry, empowered activist is exciting to to concern. Glenn sumi

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

@nowtoronto


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