Film has the unique power to change hearts and minds, through placing the viewer in situations that challenge assumptions and biases. When making this list, I thought of films that had a profound effect on me. Humanistic stories that strip away our armor and shine a spotlight on our similarities rather than our differences allow the viewer to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes - if only for a couple hours. Sometimes that’s enough to make a difference.
Boyz n the Hood
Writer/director John Singleton’s first film gives viewers a chance to experience what it’s like to be a young man in South Central LA circa 1990. The authentic depiction humanized what headlines could not: Black kids have hopes and dreams that are oftentimes dashed by senseless violence. It shines a spotlight on the power of a strong parental voice to help steer them in the right direction.
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Directed by Stanley Kramer, this interracial drama pits the charming Sidney Poitier against a formidable Spencer Tracy in his final role. Way before its time, it’s a smart, moving exploration of race where two families must confront their own prejudice.
The Defiant Ones
Stanley Kramer directed this beautifully shot black-and-white film about two escaped prisoners played by Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis who are shackled together and forced to work cooperatively in order to survive, an apt metaphor for today.
Sanaa Hamri’s directorial debut explores an interracial relationship where Sanaa Lathan and Simon Baker’s characters find ways to navigate traditional black family expectations as they fall in love.
Dear White People
Written and directed by Justin Simien, Dear White People explores Black students navigating a mostly white campus. Striking for its diversity amongst Black characters, Justin’s pithy dialogue smartly captures what it feels like being a black face in a white space.
Do the Right Thing
Writer/director Spike Lee’s film captures how little things have changed. Powerful and unflinching, he puts us right in the mix and makes us feel tension so thick, it has to erupt.