We invited Michael Hewlett to curate a list of suggested films to help us delve further into the topic of race and institutional racism in the United States. Michael Hewlett has been a legal affairs reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal since 2002. He’s also in the audience at a/perture frequently and we always look forward to his thoughtful and critical responses to the films we screen.
directed by Ava DuVernay
The documentary was a thorough dissection of systemic racism in the criminal justice system, and what it brilliantly did, I thought, was show that this was not a partisan issue. Both parties bore responsibility for creating the problem of mass incarceration that we see today. I think that’s a critical point when talking about systemic and institutionalized racism — that there are policies in place that perpetuate racial inequities that don’t change with a specific administration.
I Am Not Your Negro
directed by Raoul Peck
I participated in a talk-back on this film in 2017 at aperture. I love film and I love James Baldwin. And this film captured the power of Baldwin’s words to reflect the past and the present. When we often talk about race, we’re forced to do so because of the urgency of the moment. And we’re living in a very urgent moment, but a quick listen to what James Baldwin says is a reminder that the issue of systemic racism is embedded in the culture of our country. As Nikole Hannah-Jones says in her introductory essay to the 1619 Project at the New York Times, race is in the very DNA of our country. We not only see that point reflected in the images of the Civil Rights movement but also in the old films that Baldwin references in his writings that showcase an American innocence that was never real.
Do The Right Thing
directed by Spike Lee
I pick this just because it’s Spike Lee and it’s a classic. I think the film gets at the underlying reasons behind racial tensions. And it deals with the issues of gentrification and the idea of losing a neighborhood to outside forces. Spike Lee recently did a short film that splices together scenes of Radio Raheem getting choked by police with Eric Garner and George Floyd.
directed by Jordan Peele.
I don’t know if we really need a reason to watch Get Out again.
It is just a phenomenal movie for all the reasons people have said. And it is specifically a film about white liberal racism, microaggressions and a history of scientific racism.
A Soldier’s Story
directed by Norman Jewison.
Just a wonderful movie about systemic racism in the military and how it operates in the mystery of black sergeant’s death. Before Covid-19, the play was brought back to Broadway, with Blair Underwood as the lead.