By Kiana Wilburg
Kaieteur News – On August 1, Guyanese will officially commemorate one of the most important days in our nation’s history—Emancipation Day. It is of particular importance as it allows for reflection on the triumph of the African spirit over decades of atrocities, dehumanisation, and cultural erosion.
In observance of the significance of this day, The Waterfalls thought it prudent to share a list of movies that incorporate the rich talents of black actors and actresses to explore themes of love, equality, liberation, brilliance, and resilience.
Do enjoy this list of timeless black features.
1. Cry Freedom: This is a 1987 epic apartheid drama film directed and produced by Richard Attenborough. It is set in late-1970s apartheid-era South Africa. The film centres on the real-life events involving South African activist Steve Biko and his friend Donald Woods, who initially finds him destructive, and attempts to understand his way of life. Denzel Washington stars as Biko, while Kevin Kline portrays Woods. Cry Freedom delves into the ideas of discrimination, political corruption, and the repercussions of violence. It is without question, a phenomenal documentary and a must-watch for all to understand the plight of Africans in modern South African history and the oppressive nature of the apartheid system.
2. Black Panther: This is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther alongside Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis. In Black Panther, T’Challa is crowned king of Wakanda following his father’s death, but he is challenged by Killmonger (Jordan), who plans to abandon the country’s isolationist policies and begin a global revolution. In the end, only one can win.
3. Sarafina: This movie is all about strength, about people lacking it and people overflowing with it. Sarafina herself is a Soweto girl with great hopes for the future, despite her family’s poverty and her mother’s (Miriam Makeba) work away from home, forcing Sarafina to take care of her younger siblings. The movie is set in Johannesburg, during the Apartheid regime, and black children are forbidden to speak their own language. In spite of this, Sarafina dreams big and her world brightens up when her class gets a new teacher (played by Whoopi Goldberg), who teaches them about their worth and to be proud of their heritage.
4. The Colour Purple: This is a 1985 American film directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Menno Meyjes, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel of the same name by Alice Walker. The cast stars Whoopi Goldberg in her breakthrough role, with Danny Glover, Oprah Winfrey, Margaret Avery, Rae Dawn Chong, Willard Pugh, and Adolph Caesar.
Filmed in Anson and Union counties in North Carolina, the film tells the story of a young African-American girl named Celie Harris and shows the problems African-American women experienced during the early 20th century, including domestic violence, incest, pedophilia, poverty, racism, and sexism. Celie is transformed as she finds her self-worth through the help of two strong female companions.
5. The Hate U Give: This is a 2018 American drama film that follows the fallout after a high school student witnesses a police shooting.
6. John Q: This is a 2002 American thriller drama film starring Denzel Washington and directed by Nick Cassavetes. The film tells the story of John Quincy Archibald (Denzel Washington), a father and husband whose son is diagnosed with an enlarged heart and who finds out he is unable to receive a transplant because HMO insurance will not cover it. He then decides to hold hostages at the hospital and force them to do it. It is a story that shows a father’s resolve to save his son no matter the cost or consequence.
7. Hidden Figures: In heartwarming, crowd-pleasing fashion, this movie celebrates the contributions of women to history. Specifically, it tells the inspiring true story of three African American female mathematicians who worked at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during the Space Race. The film stars Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan, and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson. Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, and Glen Powell are featured in supporting roles.
8. The Great Debaters: This is a 2007 American biographical drama film directed by and starring Denzel Washington. It is based on an article written about the Wiley College debate team by Tony Scherman for the spring 1997 issue of American Legacy. The film co-stars Forest Whitaker, Denzel Whitaker, Kimberly Elise, Nate Parker, Gina Ravera, Jermaine Williams and Jurnee Smollett. The screenplay is written by Robert Eisele, with story by Robert Eisele and Jeffrey Porro.
Based on a true story, the plot revolves around the efforts of debate coach Melvin B. Tolson (Denzel Washington) at Wiley College, a historically black college related to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (now The United Methodist Church), to place his team on equal footing with whites in the American South during the 1930s, when Jim Crow laws were common and lynch mobs were a fear for blacks. The Wiley team eventually succeeds to the point where they are able to debate Harvard University and win.
9. Django Unchained: Two years before the Civil War, Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave, finds himself accompanying an unorthodox German bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) on a mission to capture the vicious Brittle brothers. Their travels take them to the infamous plantation of shady Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), where Django’s long-lost wife (Kerry Washington) is still a slave. They worked together to free her but it was not without its fair share of riveting challenges.
10. Queen of Katwe: Starring David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, and Madina Nalwanga, this film depicts the inspiring true story of a girl from the slums of Uganda who becomes an international chess champion. It has strong themes of empathy, humility, integrity, perseverance, and teamwork.
11. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a 2013 British-South African biographical film directed by Justin Chadwick from a script written by William Nicholson and starring Idris Elba and Naomie Harris. The film is based on the 1995 autobiographical book Long Walk to Freedom by anti-apartheid revolutionary and former South African President Nelson Mandela.
12. The Boy who harnessed the wind: This film is based on the true story of a Malawian boy named William Kamkwamba from the Kasungu region who witnesses a terrible drought in 2001. Driven by desperation William starts searching in books for a solution until he comes across the picture of a windmill. Since he lacks resources, he goes to the nearby garbage dump and uses what he could find to build s windmill. In successfully doing so, he is able to pump water from the ground for his family’s cornfields which leads to a successful crop being sown. Word of William’s windmill spreads and he is awarded a scholarship to attend school, ultimately receiving a degree from Dartmouth College.