10 Must-See Black Films

In the Mix
  • By Rashad Grove

892 

Director and Screenwriter: Abi Damaris Corbin 

Based on true events, 892 stars John Boyega as Brian Easley, a frustrated Marine veteran who suffers from PTSD. When the Department of Veteran Affairs withholds his disability check that totals $892, his response becomes a full-on hostage situation when he threatens to bomb a Wells Fargo bank in Atlanta. This captivating thriller also stars Nicole Beharie as Estel Valerie the bank manager; Olivia Washington as Cassandra, Brian’s estranged wife; and Michael K. Williams as Eli Bernard, a hostage negotiator in his final film role.

Aftershock 

Directors and Producers: Paula Eiselt, Tonya Lewis Lee 

Synopsis: Directors Eiselt and Lewis Lee brilliantly place a spotlight on an often overlooked medical issue that disproportionately affects Black women. In their documentary film, they examine the various challenges that comprise the maternal health crisis in the U.S. The doc follows the story of two young Black women who died from complications during childbirth that were highly preventable, and features interviews with the women’s grieving family members, birth-workers, and physicians who share their stories of the alarming mortality rates of Black women during childbirth. 

Alice 

Director and Screenwriter: Krystin Ver Linden 

Synopsis: Keke Palmer plays an enslaved woman during the 19th century who escapes from a Georgia plantation After gaining her freedom and leaving her life of chattel slavery behind, she is introduced to another reality when she discovers that it’s actually 1973. The film examines her remarkable journey in the American South during the post-Civil Rights era. Along with Palmer, this gripping tale also stars Common who plays Frank, a disgruntled political activist who discovers Alice on the freeway. Sinqua Walls, Gaius Charles, Karin Riggins and Common also contribute to the film’s score and soundtrack.

Descendant 

Director: Margaret Brown 

Synopsis: Director Brown masterfully reclaims the lost narratives of the passengers of Clotilda—a slave ship full of enslaved Africans who were brought to the United States in bondage in 1860—by giving voice to their descendants in this powerful documentary. The ship reached Alabama, in a town called Africatown 40 years after African slave trading was outlawed. Two wealthy men brought the ship to Alabama, wagering that they could capture Africans and bring them back as slaves without anyone discovering their misdeeds. Eventually, they brought around 100 captive Black people to the town, and burned and sunk the ship erasing all evidence of their horrific crimes. 

We Need to Talk About Cosby

Director: W. Kamau Bell

Synopsis: During the 1980s, Bill Cosby was regarded as “America’s dad” after the success of his iconic sitcom The Cosby Show. Fast forward to 2018 and he’s found guilty of sexual assault after dozens of women alleged that he drugged and raped them. (His conviction would be overturned. He was released from prison in 2021 due to a legal technicality). In this four-part Cosby documentary, the director explores if it’s possible to separate art from real life in the case of his former comedic hero. Also, he highlights the comedian’s alleged predatory behavior that took place behind the scenes and even in plain sight. The series features in-depth interviews from Cosby’s alleged assault victims, plus commentary from journalist Jemele Hill, political analyst Roland Martin, comedians Godfrey and Chris Spencer, culture critic and professor Jelani Cobb, and many more.

Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul 

Director and Screenwriter: Adamma Ebo and Adanne Ebo

Synopsis: In this 15-minute short, the twin filmmakers offer a hilarious, satirical take on the prosperity gospel phenomenon and the ethical dimensions of megachurch ministries who’ve dealt with pubic scandals. In the heart of America’s Bible Belt, Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs, played by Sterling K. Brown, and his wife First Lady Trinitie Childs, played Regina Hall, lead a thriving Southern Baptist megachurch. But a sex scandal involving the pastor rocks the ministry and sends most of their parishioners heading for the exit—having them go from 25,000 members to under 300 in a year. Despite her husband’s moral failings, his wife stands by his side. Now the once-revered duo must do whatever they can to rebuild their brand during their most challenging time as a couple. 

jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy

Directors: Chike Ozah and Clarence “Coodie” Simmons

Synopsis: The life and times of the legendary producer and fashion designer Kanye West is the subject of this three-part documentaryThe directors Ozah and Simmons, have been frequent collaborators of West for over 20 years. The doc chronicles the rapper’s meteoric rise as a cultural icon and his quest for artistic freedom. 

Master

Director and Screenwriter: Mariama Diallo

Synopsis: This harrowing horror film takes place at a predominantly white college in New England, in which centuries ago, a woman named Margaret Millett was hanged for witchcraft. According to school legend, her ghost takes the soul of one freshman on the anniversary of her death at 3:33 am every year. A group of Black women share their traumatic, life-altering experiences at this elite institution. Regina Hall stars as Gail Bishop, the first Black Master at the college who was brought in to check off the school’s diversity box. Amber Gray (Liv Beckman) and Zoe Renee (Jasmine Moore) also co-star in this haunting thrill ride.

Neptune Frost

Directors: Anisia Uzeyman, Saul Williams

Synopsis: Neptune Frost is an Afro-futurist science-fiction musical drama that explores themes of anti-capitalism, anti-colonialism, and queerness. Directed by Uzeyman and Williams, the film is set in the city of Burundi, Rwanda where a group of computer hackers emerge from a mining community. A romance develops between miner Matalusa (played by Bertrand Ninteretse) and an intersex runaway Neptune (played by both Cheryl Isheja and Elvis Ngabo) who discover each other through dreams and the use of technology. Together, their love becomes a transformative tool that compels them to embrace the possibilities of a new Black future.

You Go Girl! 

Director: Shariffa Ali

Tiffany Mann appears in You Go Girl! by Shariffa Ali, an official selection of the Shorts Program at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Tyler Maddox. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Synopsis: You Go Girl stars Tiffany Mann as Audrey, an up-and-coming comedian from New York City. To reconcile with the trauma of her past and conquer her fears, she embarks on a journey into the wilderness of Southern Oregon. While in an unknown environment, she attempts to climb the top of the mountain which is symbolic of her voyage of self-discovery. The film embodies the possibilities that life has to offer when we have the courage to be our authentic selves.

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