We’re living in very turbulent times right now and people are demanding justice for the lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many more who were taken from this world too soon. Nina Simone said it best: “You can’t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” These ten groundbreaking documentaries reflect times of the past, present and our future in this country.
4 Little Girls (1997)
On Sunday, September 15, 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was bombed by four members of a Ku Klux Klan-affiliated racist group. Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, four African-American girls between the ages of 11 and 14 who had been attending the church’s Sunday school, were killed in the blast. Director Spike Lee’s somber 1997 documentary tells the story through new interviews and archival footage.
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011)
Directed by Göran Olsson, that examines the evolution of the Black Power movement in American society from 1967 to 1975 as viewed through Swedish journalists and filmmakers. It features footage of the movement shot by Swedish journalists in America between 1967–1975 with appearances by Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, and other activists, artists, and leaders central to the movement.
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2015)
Filmmaker Stanley Nelson examines the rise of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and its impact on civil rights and American culture.
What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)
Directed by Liz Garbus. Classically trained pianist, dive-bar chanteuse, black power icon and legendary recording artist Nina Simone lived a life of brutal honesty, musical genius, and tortured melancholy.
I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, “Remember This House.” The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin’s death in 1987, he left behind only 30 completed pages of this manuscript. Filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished.
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)
Filmmakers David France and Mark Blane, re-examine the 1992 death of transgender legend Marsha P. Johnson, who was found floating in the Hudson River. Originally ruled a suicide, many in the community believe she was murdered.
King in the Wilderness (2018)
Directed by Peter Kunhardt. A portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. during the last years of his life, from his part in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to his assassination in 1968.
Homecoming is a 2019 concert film about American singer Beyoncé and her performance at the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, written, directed and executive produced by Beyoncé herself.
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019)
Directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Author Toni Morrison leads an assembly of her peers, critics and colleagues on an exploration of race, history, America and the human condition.