Review: Black History Month movies and the Oscars

Sarah Castro

There are three notable nominees for Best Picture at this years Oscars that deserve to be celebrated for its inclusivity and celebration of the black community.

Hollywood has underrepresented the black community many times throughout the years in an unapologetic way. Enter: Black Panther, BlacKKKlansman and Green Book. All three movies are representative of powerful and relevant figures for the African American community.

Black Panther —the first superhero blockbuster with a predominantly black cast— was not only successful commercially, but critically as well. This film not only allowed African Americans, but helped bring in the conversation that representation matters. With royalty, wealth, technology and unity, Wakanda is meant to be a place where blackness can be celebrated wholly.

This representation and celebration of black culture is important to children across America and the world. Especially for those who have never seen a black super hero in movies before. There’s a scene when the villain, Killmonger confronts hero Black Panther, T’Challa, about the suffering of black people all over the world and Wakanda’s refusal to use their technology to help people of color around the world.

Ultimately, this influences Wakanda to share their knowledge with the rest of the world. T’challa further illustrates this point in his speech at the end of the film, asserting, “…In times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.”

Black Panther
T'Challa/Black Panther and Killmonger during the ritual combat. Photo credit: Google Images

This quote ironically rebukes President Trump’s hopes of building a wall to keep Americans “safe” when in reality, building walls to keep others out won’t accomplish anything except causing a divide amongst nations.

BlacKKKlansman, based on a true story, takes place in the 1970s in Colorado Springs. Ron Stallworth, the first African American police officer in that county, plans to infiltrate the KKK by impersonating a white mans voice over the telephone and conversing regularly with David Duke, the KKK’s grand wizard.

Ron Stallworth taking on the phone with the grand wizard of the KKK David Duke, while pretending to be a white man intrested in joining. Photo credit: Google Images

Racial tensions in those times were deeply palpable. Today, racism is commonly referred to as something America has left in the past, but based on recent studies, hate groups have been on the rise.

At the end of the film, real footage is shown of the protests of the Unite the Right Rally that depict scenes of neo-nazis and white supremacists marching and chanting their racist rhetoric, as well as the gruesome aftermath of those who were ran over by James Field’s car.

Unlike the movie, the Charlottesville protests and car attack did not take place like in the 1970s, it happened just two years ago. Throughout the film you can feel and see the racial tension and how people of color were and still are, marginalized and mistreated.

For the last film, Green Book is based on true story of Don Shirley, an African-American jazz pianist and Tony Vallelonga, an Italian-American bouncer who served as Shirley’s driver and bodyguard while touring the deep south.

Green Book
"Greenbook" is one of the films nominated for Best Picture at this years Oscars. Photo credit: Google Images

In once scene Vallelonga yells to Dr. Shirley, “You don’t know your own people, you Mr. Big shot doing concerts for rich people.” And Dr. Shirley replies with “So if I’m not black enough and if I’m not white enough then tell me Tony, what am I?”

This film highlights some identity issues African-Americans face today with themselves trying to find a safe space where they can celebrate their blackness without being accused of being anti-white.

If just one of these movies won, it could open doors for more black stories to be told that might not have been told before. While at the same time showing studio executives that black stories are marketable, relatable, and viable.