Our Student Engagement Ambassador, Dominique, suggests a range of tv shows and documentaries centring on the Black experience to watch throughout the year.
During Black History Month, all of the streaming services tend to add an influx of ‘black’ films to their platforms to celebrate the month. It is important to remember that representation is more than just having a few black people on screen. It’s about the ideals, themes and history that it represents. It’s also good to remember that these are not just thoughts to have during this month, it is something that we must be cautious of all year round.
Here I have listed a few films and TV shows that I feel everyone should check out:
Small Axe anthology
Directed by Steve McQueen (who also directed 12 Years a Slave), this is a collection of five films that look at the experience of West Indian immigrants in the 1960s and 1980s. The Windrush scandal (2018) certainly brought a lot of the details of their struggle to the light and many are still feeling the repercussions to this day. This series show provides a glimpse into a bit of history that tends to be ignored and forgotten. The incredible cast of these films includes familiar faces like John Boyega, Malachi Kirby, Letitia Wright and Michael Ward.
A lot of these stars should not only be recognised for their talent but also their activism. For example, John Boyega continuously speaks out about the industry and its relationship with race. A notable incident of this is last year at a protest in London.
I would advise that you check the content warnings for each episode.
Where to watch: BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video
Based on Issa Rae’s Web series ‘Awkward Black Girl’, this is a series that explores the highs and lows of growing up. It explores every topic from relationships to friendships and motivation in life. A series that makes me die of laughter and isn’t afraid to play with your emotions. There are characters for everyone to relate to. I would also recommend some other shows that she is an executive producer for: ‘A Black Lady Sketch Show’ and ‘Rap Sh*t’
Where to watch: Now TV or buy on Prime
A coming-of-age drama based in London centring around a teenage girl who must look after her younger brother after their mother leaves abruptly. The two of them fight to avoid being taken away by social services. If you’re looking for a story that highlights friendships and the lengths that people will go for each other, then this is something that you should definitely take the time to watch.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video
‘Chewing Gum’ is a series by Michaela Coel based on her play ‘Chewing Gum Dreams’ that is filled with both hilarious and cringy moments that make you torn between continuing and turning it off to save yourself from the second-hand embarrassment. A show that I would definitely recommend to those looking for a new series to watch.
Where to watch: Channel 4 or Netflix
I May Destroy You
This is a series that looks at the effect of a sexual assault on writer Arabella’s life as she processes the terrible event and starts to reevaluate her life up until that point. I would recommend that you approach this series with caution as it deals with topics that are considered to be triggering. However, I would recommend this for the way that the topics are handled delicately while also managing to find a way to balance tone with humour and fantastic cinematography. This was based on the real experience of Michaela Coel who not only starred in the main role of Arabella but also wrote the show and was one of the directors.
Where to watch: BBC iPlayer
A new series by Channel 4 docu-ality series that centres around a group of British West Africans that focuses on celebrating their successes and exploring their future ambitions. It is unapologetic in the way that it shows their glamorous lives. This is a series that continues to diversify the type of representation we see on screen.
Where to watch: Channel 4
Black Hollywood: They Gotta Have Us
A documentary that explores black filmmakers and actors as they look at the history of black figures in film. It really makes you realise how many pioneers have been overlooked and how pushed to the side, the contributions of black creatives have been. The main takeaway is how we intend to change this as a collective so that the right voices get the attention that they deserve.
Where to watch: BBC iPlayer
For more movies, the streaming services have a great selection of both classics and newer works. Prime in particular has My Wife and Kids, The Cookout, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins and Everybody Hates Chris available at the moment.