Before we start this month’s round of viewing, I should have mentioned one thing in the first edition of this column: I plan to only review content that is easily accessible (and hopefully free) at the time that the reviews are released. To that end, most of what I will write about will be from:
- Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime, as these are all platforms to which I subscribe.
- Content unlocked from platforms where I am not a subscriber, but the provider has made it available to everyone.
- Free trials to varying platforms when I can find them.
I will note when I use either #2 or #3, and in the interest of full disclosure, I can say that neither I nor PCU benefit in any way from the links.
With that out of the way, let’s get into it.
The Criterion Channel (unlocked content through 06/30/20)
Daughters of the Dust (1991)
Julie Dash’s film tells the story of a Gullah family in South Carolina, preparing to leave their generational home to move north in 1902. Originally released in 1991 to critical acclaim, remastered and re-released in 2016 for its 25th anniversary, Daughters of the Dust is a gorgeous film. The imagery has even inspired other artists (see Beyoncé’s Lemonade).
I’ve wanted to watch this film for a while, and was excited to see that it’s now available on streaming platforms. It was well worth the time, as I gained some insight into the Gullah people from this powerful story about family. With the Criterion unlocked content period closing today, check this film out for rent on Amazon for $1.99.
Apple TV (7-day free trial)
The Banker (2020) (unlocked content through 06/30/20)
In 1954, a real estate broker named Bernard S. Garret and a club owner named Joe Morris, created a business plan to own rental property in Los Angeles. As this was the 50s, and the two businessmen were black, no banks would approve their mortgage applications. So, the pair found a white man to be the face of their business, which they began to grow from there. The two successfully integrated several neighborhoods in Los Angeles before moving the operation to Garret’s hometown in Texas.
Even though (as with all films about real people) there are some creative license taken with the story, the excellent acting and fantastic writing weave a compelling tale. While there was some controversy surrounding the production, that should not stop you from experiencing this film. Get yourself an Apple TV free trial & access this one regardless of how you otherwise stream content.
Netflix Channel on YouTube
8:46 (Dave Chapelle)
Coming in at about 30 minutes, 8:46 was an impromptu comedy special recorded in an outdoor theater with COVID-19 protocols in place. The audience members’ temperatures were taken before entering the staging area, the seating was set to observe social distancing, and everyone wore facemasks. From the moment Chapelle walked onstage, it was plain to see that he needed to get something off his chest. From the 8 minute-46 second reference of the death of George Floyd, to cancel culture and news pundits, Chapelle packed a lot into 30 minutes and pulled no punches. In this special, he is often more serious than funny, but still as awesome as always.
In her searing documentary about the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, Ava DuVernary examines how the loophole in the amendment (namely negating it if for punishment of a crime) led to the criminalization of Black people in America – specifically in order to obtain free labor. Originally released in 2016, the documentary has become popular again with the renewed focus on police brutality and the American criminal justice system. This was my second viewing of the film, and it was just as powerful as the first time I saw it.
This film was the Best Picture snub at the 2020 Oscars. Released in the fall of 2019, Knives Out is a modern murder mystery in the style of author Agatha Christie.
The morning after his 85th birthday, the patriarch of the Thrombey family is found dead. While the death is initially ruled a suicide, a detective is called to investigate. Was there actually foul play here?
The film has everything required to be considered great: a well-thought-out script, writing that leaves no plot holes, and stellar acting. The ensemble cast is the best collection of actors & actresses in the business, and each one chews up the scene as they appear onscreen. It’s been reported that a sequel to Knives Out is being planned, and I cannot wait.
Just Mercy (unlocked content)
We talked a bit about this one in our look at Black experience stories. Just Mercy is a legal drama based on the book by Bryan Stevens – an Alabama attorney who works to defend prisoners who were convicted without proper representation. The story focuses on the case of Walter McMillian, who was sentenced to death for the murder of an 18 year-old woman; even though several witnesses stated that McMillian was nowhere near the scene when the crime occurred.
Released in late 2019, this film is another must-watch about racism and criminal justice in America.
I watched a lot this time around, but if I wrote about everything, you’d be reading until August. I hope you can find enjoyment in this selection, and please let us know what you’re watching by hitting us up on Facebook and Twitter!