Here are three movies I’ve seen for the first time, plus one I’d seen long ago and had the pleasure of getting reacquainted with again. Interestingly, and not intentionally, all of the films deal with racism or the African-American experience.
A Glory (1989)
A tremendously effective blend of history and fiction, Glory was one of the first Civil War films that dealt with Black soldiers. Matthew Broderick plays the historical figure Col. Robert Gould Shaw, a young officer from a wealthy, abolitionist family, who commands one of the first African American regiments in the war. Much of the film concerns basic training while dealing with racism in the Union army. But as the men turn into soldiers and go into battle, their courage proves exceptional. Denzel Washington won his first Oscar as a former slave with a very large chip on his shoulder.
A- Daughters of the Dust (1991)
The story is simple, but the layers of atmosphere and culture make it something special. Set in an island off the Carolinas at the beginning of the 20th century, Julie Dash’s first film brings us into the Gullah way of life at a time where it appears to be dying. An old woman, one old enough to remember slavery well, watches as members of her extended family move north to find better lives. Arthur Jafa’s beautiful cinematography helps create a sense of magic at a time when magic seems to be dying out.
B+ Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)
long-waited long-awaited sequel is as sick and nasty as the original (and I mean that as a compliment). It’s also almost as funny. I suspect that this time around more of the scenes we see were shot with people in on the joke (the biggest exception being the Rudy Giuliani scene that everyone is talking about). This time, the idiot journalist goes to America to give his teenage daughter (Maria Bakalova) to Mike Pence. Unfortunately, the racism isn’t as shocking as it was in 2006.
C The Angel Levine (1970)
This very Jewish story about life, death, and whatever is between tries to be meaningful but doesn’t really have anything important to say. An old, poor Jewish man (Zero Mostel) feels that God has forsaken him. Suddenly, a younger black man (Harry Belafonte) appears in his kitchen. But he’s not really a man, or at least, not anymore. He’s an angel who must make a miracle so he can…well, that’s not entirely certain. The music tries to tell us unsuccessfully that something important is being said. The only thing worthwhile is watching these two great actors work with each other.