Hidden Figures. Directed by Theodore Melfi, 20th Century Fox, 2016
This American biographical drama presents the story of the black 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, a mathematician who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury and other missions. The film also features Octavia Spencer as NASA supervisor and mathematician, with Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, and Jim Parsons in supporting roles. The film received positive reviews from critics and grossed $236 million worldwide. It was chosen by National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2016 and was nominated for numerous awards, including three Oscar nominations.
Eye-opening presentation of the contributions of African American women to the space program in spite of the obstacles placed in front of them. Review by Pat Burns, Multiculturalism Taskforce.
Selma. Directed by Ava DuVernay, Paramount, 2014.
In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) accepts his Nobel Peace Prize. Four black girls walking down stairs in the Birmingham, Alabama 16th Street Baptist Church are killed by a bomb set by the Ku Klux Klan. Annie Lee Cooper attempts to register to vote in Selma, Alabama but is prevented by the white registrar. King meets with Lyndon B. Johnson and asks for federal legislation to allow black citizens to register to vote unencumbered, but the president responds that, although he understands Dr. King's concerns, he has more important projects. This historical drama is based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by James Bevel, Hosea Williams, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John Lewis.
Inspiring drama about Dr. Martin Luther King’s struggle for Civil Rights and the sacrifice of those that marched with him. Review by Patsy Thomas, Multiculturalism Taskforce.
The Best of Enemies. Directed by Robin Bissell, 2019.
“The Best of Enemies” follows the real-life feud and subsequent friendship between civil rights activist Ann Atwater and former Ku Klux Klan leader C.P. Ellis in Durham, N.C. The film takes inspiration from Osha Gray Davidson’s book, The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South. Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson plays Atwater, while Oscar winner Sam Rockwell portrays Ellis. The pair, initially adversaries, finds themselves in a burgeoning friendship when asked to co-chair a committee overseeing the issue of segregation in schools in 1971. Ellis, who comes from a poor, working-class background, finds that his family shares similarities with Atwater's.
The movie was difficult to watch but well worth watching because of the outcome. It’s a testament to how powerful God is and how he can change anything or anybody. Review by Denise Rooks, Multiculturalism Taskforce.
The Help. Directed by Tate Taylor, Touchstone Pictures, 2011.
An American period drama adapted from Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 novel of the same name. The film features an ensemble cast including Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone. The film and novel recount the story of young white woman and aspiring journalist. The story focuses on her relationship with two black maids, Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson, during the Civil Rights Movement in 1963 Jackson, Mississippi, from the point of view of the maids, exposing the racism they are faced with as they work for white families. Black domestic workers in the 1960s America were referred to as "the help", hence the title of the putative journalistic expose, the novel and the film.
Riveting account of the African American domestic female worker that symbolizes modern-day slavery and the persistence of the plantation mentality. Review by Pat Burns, Multiculturalism Taskforce.
The Uncomfortable Truth: The History of Racism in America. Produced and directed by Loki Mulholland, Taylor Street Films, 2016
Winner of four awards including Best Documentary at the Utah Film Awards, National Black Film Festival, and the Park City International Film Festival, The Uncomfortable Truth has been called, "Honest, uncompromising and compassionate." When award-winning filmmaker Loki Mulholland (“An Ordinary Hero”)—the son of Civil Rights Hero, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland—dives into his family history he is confronted with the shocking reality of his family’s true slaveholding past and their deep connection to the roots of American history. Through engrossing storytelling and captivating visuals, Loki Mulholland and Civil Rights Activist Luvaghn Brown take us on a comprehensive and insightful exploration of the origins and history of racism in America -- from slavery to Jim Crow era, from lynchings to protests. The movie is a moving exploration of our nation’s past and a challenging invitation to make a way forward.
Powerful personal story told by the son of an early Civil Rights Worker – retraces his family steps. Review by Ashley Randall, Multiculturalism Taskforce.
13th Amendment. Directed by Ava DuVernay, 2016
The film begins with the idea that 25 percent of the people in the world who are incarcerated are incarcerated in the U.S. Although the U.S. has just 5% of the world's population. "13th" charts the explosive growth in America's prison population; in 1970, there were about 200,000 prisoners; today, the prison population is more than 2 million.
A thorough documentary by scholars, activists, and politicians that shed light on the criminalization of African Americans and the growing prison system.
12 Years a Slave. Directed by Steve McQueen, 2013
Based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty personified by a malevolent slave owner, as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon's chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist will forever alter his life.
It is fundamentally important to understand our history to inform our present and future. Review by the Multiculturalism Task Force.