Crown Heights and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks are outstanding films in their own right. Written and directed by Matt Ruskin, Crown Heights tells the very real, very compelling, life story of Colin Warner and Carl King. It portrays King’s lifetime devotion to proving Warner, his best friend, was wrongfully convicted of a murder he did not commit. Written and directed by George C. Wolfe, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is part science and part drama. It tells the story of how one black woman’s cancer cells forever changed cancer treatments and how those cells have been duplicated and used by the medical community for treatments and experiments since the 1950’s – less than sixty years ago.
Both films are remarkable. Both uncover secrets and truths about life in America for people of color. And, yes, both are outstanding films. But unlike commercial movies that happen to have predominately Black casts, part of what contributes to the fascination of these movies is that they are indie films by Black filmmakers with stellar Black casting and both were recently included in the 2017 Essence Black Film Festival.
Black moviemakers are starting to come into their own measure of success with these and other indie Black films. Why do Black movies matter? Because they portray a realistic look at Black life. They depict the varying lifestyles, unique innuendos, and unique brand of comedy that make Black life what it is. They can also hilariously produce one-liners that say more in a sentence than they can in an entire movie scene, thereby becoming permanent cultural colloquialisms – “Bye, Felicia!”? The appeal of these films comes from more than their impressive nature, it comes from the desire to see ourselves and our everyday realities come to life. Black films that tell a story, make us laugh, make us cry, and make us think are as needed as the ones that make a demand for social equality and justice.
If you’re looking for authentic, intelligent, perceptive, sometimes hilarious portrayals of both historic and contemporary Black lives, they’re all captured on film by Black filmmakers. The pioneering men and women who create these movies are worthy of receiving the acclaim and recognition their movies deserve. They also deserve a wider circulation than they typically receive for telling the kinds of stories and narratives only we can. As more and more Black moviemakers take on the challenge of bringing our stories, our brand of comedy, and our faces to life on the silver screen, they need the ongoing commitment and support of our people.
Black movies matter because they have social, societal, and entertainment power! Plain and simple – they’re needed. They’re needed to portray our shared experience whether that’s through documentaries, stand-up comedy, romantic movies, thrillers, or science fiction. The success of such Black movie contributions are eagerly anticipated and applauded by Black movie fans and Black movie buffs – when they’re aware of them. At Reel 365, we’re all Black films, all the time. Our goal is to bring these movies out of obscurity. Keep checking back for recent additions of acclaimed Black movies you’ll love. Because Black movies don’t need to be the best kept secret in the Black community or in the movie industry.