Black History Month: Three Great Shows to Watch

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With October being Black History Month, it seems worthwhile to speak about some series that have looked at important topics and historical events that have impacted the non-white population.

Small Axe (2020)

To begin, Small Axe (2020) was a collection of five films of varying lengths released by BBC last year one week apart. Each film investigated a specific part of modern history in the U.K. regarding race relations. Each episode was excellent, but Lovers Rock and Red, White and Blue stand out above the rest – Lovers Rock was a wonderfully unique and relaxed film for the majority of its runtime that stepped away from the usual representation of black struggles and their dealing with racism and instead completely embraced their culture, a 70 minute joy of a film full of dancing and the most gorgeous collection of reggae and soul tracks.

Red, White and Blue looks at the true story of Leroy Logan (John Boyega) and it flaunts all of director Steve McQueen’s greatest traits as an artist – every shot looks like a painting, the tensions are perfectly played out and Boyega’s performance is stunning. It’s a little short, but it doesn’t feel as if it’s been cut down as the content is pretty much perfectly paced. Small Axe is a phenomenal series both in terms of its messages and its artistry – a masterfully crafted documentation of Black British history of the past fifty years or so.

Time: The Kalief Browder Story

Time: The Kalief Browder Story remains the most heartbreaking series I have ever seen. It documents the true story of Kalief Browder, a sixteen year old who was picked up by police and kept in jail for three years whilst never actually being convicted of a crime or proven guilty at all. Taking its time to investigate every facet of the prison system, of Kalief’s personal life and his family and his absolutely harrowing experience at the hands of corrupt policing (including being placed into solitary confinement for two years when any longer than 15 days of solitary is classed as literal torture to an adult prisoner, never mind a teenage one).

It’s a short series that will undoubtedly break a part of you forever, a horrendous reminder of the kind of crimes that frequently occur but rarely see any justice in return, not that justice is even enough to make any of it okay. Kalief’s story will make an activist out of most anyone, clearly pointing out the deep flaws of the US prison system whilst also being much, much more as a political piece of art. It’s a genuine masterpiece.

When the Levees Broke

Spike Lee’s four hour When the Levees Broke is another documentary that looks at Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, particularly the government’s horrendous way of ‘dealing’ with the problems created by the storm (Kanye West’s infamous ‘George Bush doesn’t care about black people’ acts as an appropriate summary, it seems). Taking on a frankly insane amount of content in its relatively short length, no part feels rushed or out of place as it is edited to perfection and tracks the consistent lack of care in America and the world as a whole towards both the working class and to non-white people across the board. Its follow up, If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise is equally brilliant, giving another four hours to look at any changes since the first part was made – unsurprisingly, very little good has occurred.

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