111 Best BIPOC Stories to Watch (Page 7)

This lovely romance is about Ellie, a straight-A student who takes money from a classmate, Paul, to write love letters for him. Ellie does this to help with the household bills but there is one big problem: the girl Paul is in love with is also the girl Ellie has a crush on.

This might seem like the set-up for a standard Netflix comedy (and if you’re thinking Bergerac, you’re right, it is based on the famous play) but as the introduction of the film reads: “This is not a love story … not one where anyone gets what they want."

It is in fact, personal work from a brilliant and quality-focused director, Alice Wu. Her last movie, Saving Face, a pioneering lesbian romance set in an Asian American context, was released a long 15 years ago.

This Eddie Murphy comedy had all the ingredients to be both a famous movie and an award-winner, but neither happened. It tells the true story of Rudy Ray Moore, a comedian who became famous for creating a character called Dolemite, a pimp, and who later attempted to make his own movie based on the same character. Murphy plays Rudy, but there are also other recognizable faces in supporting roles: Chris Rock, Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, Snoop Dogg, and many others. It's above all a funny movie, but being Eddie Murphy's first R-rated movie since 1999, it's also a realistic portrayal of both 1970s L.A. and the struggles of being a black filmmaker at the time.

John Boyega, Algee Smith, and John Krasinski star in this difficult portrayal of the Detroit 1967 riots, the biggest civil unrest in American history before the 92 L.A. protests. A murderous cop, a band on the verge of breaking big, and a hard-working security guard find their fates intertwined by the events that took place that summer. Detroit blends real-life images with its storytelling. It would be a perfect movie if it wasn't for a scene in which the police brutalize young Black men for finding them in a hotel with two White girls. This scene, while a necessary part of the story, is overstretched and feels almost sadistic, more so because the film was made by a White director, Kathryn Bigelow.

In this French movie based on a true story, a med-school graduate from Congo is offered a job as the doctor to the president of Zaire. He refuses and chooses instead to move to a small town in France in hopes of getting French citizenship and securing a better future for his children.

The story, which starts in 1975, is set in a village where people had never seen a Black person. To that, Seyolo, the doctor, says: “so what? Now they will.”

The culture clash is both villagers-to-new-arrivals and the other way. Seyolo tells his family that he was hired in a village “north of Paris”, but all they hear is “Paris”, only to be shocked by the state of the rainy and muddy countryside village.

Based on the first jury trial in South Korea, Juror 8 tells the story of eight ordinary citizens with different backgrounds who are summoned to be the jurors of a case that's believed to be a murder. These characters who have no background or knowledge in law find themselves able to decide someone's fate. Unlike 12 Angry Men, Juror 8 delivers a lot of cunning and humorous dialogue between the characters. It’s a good mix between comedy and mystery.

This Canadian drama produced by Clint Eastwood is based on the true story of Saul Indian Horse, a famous indigenous hockey player who survived Canada’s residential school system. As recently as 1996, indigenous children were taken away from their families to attend brutal assimilation boarding schools.

Indian Horse, by virtue of being based on true events, is not an against-all-odds story. The main character goes through a series of ups and downs between the 70s and 90s, when the movie is set, which reflect the recent history of abuse that Indigenous communities suffered in Canada.

Ben du Toit (Donald Sutherland) is a patriarch of an upper-class white family insulated from the roiling protests and violence in their suburban household outside of Johannesburg. When his gardener’s son is arrested, du Toit’s complacency is tested and he becomes embroiled in the devastating political reality outside the comforts of his gated world. 

Although it falls into the somewhat blemished category of films that center white protagonists when covering Black struggle, it does so with a piercing critical lens that confronts white denial and complicity. Euzhan Palcy’s direction is striking, depicting racism and violence with uncompromised clarity, while her unfettered dedication to getting this made even brought Marlon Brando out of retirement. Keep an eye out for him playing a beleaguered civil rights attorney - a role which notched him his final Academy Award nomination. 

A Kurdish-Iraqi immigrant runs into serious immigration problems as he tries to immigrate from France to England in order to be reunited with his girlfriend. Eventually he begins to train in swimming, in an attempt to swim the channel between France and England. Welcome is a gripping tale of tolerance as well as relationships between locals and immigrants. It also gives a great look into the shortcoming of the European immigration system, and will have you crying by the end of it, no question.

From The Babadook director Jennifer Kent comes another horror, although this one is more about the horrors of humanity. Set in 1825 Tasmania, The Nightingale follows Irish settler Clare as she seeks bloody revenge on the monsters who wronged her and her family. She teams up with an Aboriginal guide named Billy to accomplish her goal.

Because of its often violent and disturbing tone (the film is rated R for its potentially triggering scenes), The Nightingale understandably polarized audiences upon its release. But it's also an excellent conversation piece, best watched with friends or anyone up for a discussion-filled movie night.

The 1980s were not a great time to be of Pakistani descent in the UK. Hate crimes are at an all-time high and the economy is suffering. Plus, there is really no good era to be a misunderstood teenager. Javed is both those things in this coming-of-age comedy based on a true story. Javed finds solace in the music of one Bruce Springsteen, relating to his themes of small-city blues and the dreams of escaping them.

All of this makes Blinded By The Light a charming movie about a lot of unpleasantness, and while it tries to be too many things (a commentary on race, a musical, a coming of age story, etc), it succeeds where it matters: to treat the story with care and intelligence.

Shot almost entirely in one take and on a tiny budget, and yet the central performance in this movie is still better than most big-budget dramas I’ve seen this year.

Two indigenous women, one upper-class and the other impoverished, meet on the day that the rich one gets an IUD and the other one, pregnant, finds herself kicked out of her home. They spend a few hours together: they talk, they take cabs, walk, etc; and you as a viewer, follow them throughout their intimate yet difficult moments.

If you like subtle movies that showcase how people live and interact with one another, beyond plot-obsessiveness, this is for you.

Fourteen-year-old Segundo dreams of being just like his father Noé, a revered tableau artist in their small Peruvian town. The teenage apprentice follows Noé's every move and instruction, that is until one day, he discovers a shocking truth about Noé's identity. Hurt, angered, and incredibly confused, Segundo starts detaching from his family, as well as from the life he thought he'd wanted to live. 

Retablo is a slow but vibrant film, set in Peruvian locales and spoken in the country's indigenous tongue, Quechua. Its limited dialogue smartly reflects the people's own silence when it comes to sex and gender ideas, although the movements themselves—from traditional parties to teenage fights—have a lot to say about masculinity, conservatism, and the dangers of their excess. Retablo might be a difficult watch for some, but it's just as necessary and enlightening.

In Tina Mabry’s first full length feature film Mississippi Damned she tells the story of three poor, Black adolescents as they advance into adulthood. The story is mostly centered on Kari Peterson, portrayed by Tessa Thompson, who has fallen witness and victim to violence/abuse since her childhood. As she navigates her trauma while facing poverty and familial issues, we begin to understand the inner machinations of Kari and those who have harmed her.

While Mississippi Damned isn’t particularly easy to digest, I consider it essential. As unflinchingly brutal as this film is, it taught me a lot about trauma and how to navigate my own. With performances as powerful as these, it’s impossible to forget this film.

This documentary is about filmmaker Lacey Schwartz, who stands out from her devout New York Jewish family with her darker skin tone. For most of her life, the family attributed this to genes from a distant Sicilian ancestor.

But suspicions have always been there, what a family member calls “the 500-pound elephant in the room”. Schwartz embarks on a journey of untangling family secrets, self-discovery, with fascinating questions on race and identity. If you like family history documentaries like Stories We Tell, you will love this.

Prior to being defined by that fateful bombing in 1945, Hiroshima was like any other city outside of Tokyo; small but full, quiet but busy, and in the midst of a slow-but-sure journey to modernization. We experience the rich and intimate details of this life through the kind-hearted Suzu, who herself is stuck between the throes of old and new. She is an ambitious artist but also a dedicated wife; a war-wearied survivor and a hopeful cheerleader. 

Set before, during, and after the Second World War, the film starts off charmingly mundane at first, but it quickly gives way to inevitable grief in the second half. One stark tragedy follows another as it becomes increasingly clear how much we lose our humanity in war.

In This Corner of the World is the rare film outside of the Hayao Miyazaki canon that captures the latter's heart for detail while still being graciously its own.