Anti-Racist Filmmaking: Watch List

industry Feb 16, 2021

[This is PART III of the WMM Anti-Racist Filmmaking blog series. Visit for the other FOUR parts.]

Dear Filmmakers, it's time we refine our catalogue of films that detail the Black experience. The American collective knowledge of the film franchise, Friday, the seminal Boyz N The Hood, and the eminent Malcolm X just doesn't cut it. There are a plethora of films Black voices have offered up, and they beg to be consumed with as much enthusiasm and appreciation as any film from their White counterparts. 

There are films that were previously buried by the American ego, but have recently been resurrected in light of the BLM movement gaining a newfound audience in the past year. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, directed by Swedish filmmaker Göran Olsson, is one such film. Genre-busting content such as the racial revelation disguised as a superhero, sci-fi series Watchmen (created by Damon Lindelof), and comedic, fantasy joyride Sorry To Bother You (directed by Boots Riley) have made cinematic impressions on audiences and critics alike. 

But we, as a society, have to WATCH these films. We have to FOSTER Black narratives and talent, or they disappear into the cacophony of releases and premieres. We have to cultivate the artists in front of, and behind the camera, bringing us fresh content from a historically less visible lens.

Below is a list of films, documentaries, and series to help you get started on your journey to supporting Black filmmakers, as well as becoming acquainted with stories and perspectives of a culture that literally built this country.

Terror In Tulsa: The Rise And Fall of Black Wall Street ( Documentary)
is an upcoming docu-series on the Tulsa race massacre of 1921. It will inter-weave both past and present-day narratives in order to investigate the tragic event and its continuing impact.
Where to watch: Not yet announced

The Innocence Files (2020, Documentary)
The untold personal stories behind eight cases of wrongful conviction that the Innocence Project and organizations within the Innocence Network have uncovered and worked to overturn.
Where to watch: Netflix

Explained: The Racial Wealth Gap (2020, Episode of TV Docu-Series)
In this episode, Cory Booker and others discuss how slavery, housing discrimination and centuries of inequality have compounded to create a racial wealth gap.
Where to watch: YouTube

Self-made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker (2020, Drama inspired by real events)
A chronicle of the incredible story of Madam C.J. Walker, who was the first African American self-made millionaire.
Where to watch: Netflix

When They See Us (2019, Drama based on a true story)
depicts the falsely accused young teens known as the Central Park Five.
Where to watch: Netflix

16 Shots (2019, Documentary)
investigates the 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in Chicago.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Showtime, Hulu, Sling TV

Just Mercy (2019, Drama based on a true story)
follows a Harvard law graduate who heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or those not afforded proper representation. One of his first cases is that of Walter McMillian, who is sentenced to die in 1987 for the murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite evidence proving his innocence.
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime

Clemency (2019, Drama inspired by a true story)
was inspired by the 2011 execution of Troy Davis, a black man convicted of killing a police officer in Georgia, a charge that has been repeatedly disputed based on the evidence.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Hulu

Trigger Warning with Killer Mike (2019, Documentary)
Grammy-winning rapper Killer Mike uses his fame to serve as an activist, hoping to bring to light and confront important social issues, especially those that impact the black community. On "Trigger Warning," Killer Mike -- whose real name is Michael Render -- examines cultural taboos and allows viewers to examine the "what ifs" and "why nots" that limit how people operate in the world. The show explores the human condition using nontraditional approaches, some of which not everyone will agree with. Killer Mike describes the show as "if an anarchist determined the status quo."
Where to watch: Netflix

(2019, Drama based on true events)
From her escape from slavery through the dangerous missions she led to liberate hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad, the story of heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman is told.
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime

Say Her Name: the Life of Sandra Bland (2018, Documentary)
An investigation into what happened to political activist Sandra Bland, who died while in police custody.
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO

Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story (2018, Documentary)
is a six-episode series following the life and legacy of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot in Florida in 2012.
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Paramount

Monsters and Men
(2018, Drama with similarities to a real life event)
is said to be inspired by the 2014 slaying of Eric Garner by NYPD officers on Staten Island. A bystander films the death of a black man at the hands of police, which sparks rising tensions in New York. The distributor also has provided a discussion guide to help facilitate deeper conversations about the film and its themes.
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Hulu, Amazon Prime

King in the Wilderness (2018, Documentary)
A portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. during the last years of his life, from his part in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to his assassination in 1968.
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, HBO Go

The Life of Martha P. Johnson (2017, Documentary)
examines the 1992 death of transgender legend Marsha P. Johnson, who was found floating in the Hudson River. Originally ruled a suicide, many in the community believe she was murdered.
Where to watch: Netflix

Burn Motherfucker, Burn! (2017, Documentary)
explores how decades of troubled relations between the LAPD and the African-American community served as the prelude to the 1992 Los Angeles uprising.
Where to watch: YouTube, Vudu, Showtime, Hulu

The Force (2017, Documentary)
shows continued instances of police brutality, injustice and corruption in the Oakland Police Department, which struggles to confront federal demands for reform.
Where to watch: Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime

Whose Streets? (2017, Documentary)
details the Ferguson uprising as told by the people who lived it. The filmmakers look at how the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown inspired a community to fight back and sparked a global movement.
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Hulu, Amazon Prime

LA 92
(2017, Documentary)
examines the tumultuous period following the verdict in the Rodney King trial in 1992. The acquittal of four police officers for beating a black motorist saw several days of protests and violence in Los Angeles.
Where to watch: Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes

Teach Us All (2017, Documentary)
intersperses interviews from two Little Rock Nine members to explore how much further our education system needs to go for racial equality.
Where to watch: Netflix

Time: The Kalief Browder Story (2017, Documentary)
details the story of 16-year-old Kalief Browder, who spent three years in Rikers Island jail awaiting trial -- two of those years in solitary confinement -- after being arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack.
Where to watch: Netflix

Strong Island (2017, Documentary)
centers on the April 1992 murder of Ford's brother William, a 24-year-old African-American teacher in New York, who was killed by Mark P. Reilly, a 19-year-old white chop shop mechanic. An all-white grand jury declined to indict his killer, who claimed self-defense.
Where to watch: Netflix

Baltimore Rising
(2017, Documentary)
Protesting and rioting ensue after Freddie Gray dies in police custody. Police officers, activists and the residents of Baltimore struggle to keep the city together.
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes, HBO

Let It Fall (2017, Documentary)
examines a decade of tensions, civil unrest and events in Los Angeles that culminated in citywide violence following the Rodney King verdict on April 29, 1992.
Where to watch: Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes

(2017, Drama - based on historical events)
In the summer of 1967, the city of Detroit erupted in civil unrest. The Detroit Police Department, the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Army National Guard search and seize an annex of the nearby Algiers Motel. Several policemen brutally interrogate guests. By the end of the night, three unarmed men are gunned down while several others are beaten.
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Hulu, Amazon Prime

(2017, Drama - based on true events)
focuses on the first cases of Thurgood Marshall, a lawyer for the NAACP.
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime

Mudbound (2017, Historical Drama)
Black sharecroppers who live on a Mississippi Delta farm battle prejudice in the Jim Crow South.
Where to watch: Netflix

13th (2016, Documentary)
explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation's prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans.
Where to watch: Netflix

I Am Not Your Negro (2016, Documentary)
is based on an unfinished James Baldwin manuscript. It explores the history of racism through civil rights leaders like Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes

Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement
(2016, Documentary)
explores the events that led to the rise of the BLM movement, showing continued instances of police brutality and injustice.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise (2016, TV Program)
Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. hosts a personal journey through the past 50 years of black history in the United States, citing both the progress made and obstacles yet to be overcome.
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2015, Documentary)
examines the rise of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and its impact on civil rights and American culture.
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes

Selma (2014, Drama - based on real life events)
Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South, discrimination was still rampant in certain areas, making it very difficult for blacks to register to vote. In 1965, an Alabama city became the battleground in the fight for suffrage. Despite violent opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers pressed forward on an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, and their efforts culminated in President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes

Fruitvale Station (2013, Drama - based on a true story)
is a biographical film that tells the story of Oscar Grant III, who was killed by a white police officer in 2009.
Where to watch: Tubi, YouTube, Google Play, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Vudu

Let the Fire Burn (2013, documentary)
On the evening of May 13, 1985, longstanding tensions between MOVE, a black liberation group, and the Philadelphia Police Department erupted when the city of Philadelphia dropped a satchel bomb, a demolition device typically used in combat, laced with Tovex and C-4 explosives on the MOVE organization, who were living in a West Philadelphia row home known to be occupied by men, women, and children. It went up in unextinguished flames. Eleven people were killed, including five children and the founder of the organization. Sixty-one homes were destroyed, and more than 250 citizens were left homeless.
Where to watch: Vudu, iTunes

The Central Park Five (2012, Documentary)
details the 1989 case of five teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of raping a woman. After they had spent from 6 to 13 years in prison, a serial rapist confessed to the crime.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Before They Die! (2008, Documentary)
chronicles the stories of the Tulsa Race Riots survivors and their quest for justice.
Where to watch: DVD

Banished: American Ethnic Cleansings (2007, Documentary)
explores racial cleansing in America and our troubled past where, in communities across the U.S., white residents forced thousands of black families to flee their homes.
Where to watch: YouTube

The Rosa Parks Story (2002, Drama - based on historical events)
This biopic tells the story of civil rights activist Rosa Parks from her days as a private-school student to her public battle against racism and segregation. As a secretary for the NAACP, Parks defends local children who have been victimized by racism. But when she is arrested after refusing to give up her bus seat for a white passenger, Parks inspires the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Where to watch: DVD

The Tulsa Lynching of 1921: A Hidden Story (2000, Documentary)
details the events of the Tulsa Massacre during which most of the Black section of town was burned and many Black citizens were murdered by roving gangs of White racists.
Where to watch: Unknown 

Rosewood (1997, Drama - based on a true story)
Rosewood, Florida, is a small, peaceful town with an almost entirely African-American population of middle-class homeowners, until New Year's Day 1923, when a lynch mob from a neighboring white community storms the town.
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes, HBO Max

At the River I Stand (1993, Documentary)
recounts the two months leading to the death of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

King: A Filmed Record…Montgomery to Memphis (1970, Documentary)
This Oscar-nominated documentary composed of archival footage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has been newly-restored by the Library of Congress to its complete three-hour version.
Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime

This list has been curated by Sapna Gandhi

Sapna Gandhi is an actor, singer-songwriter, and content creator. In addition to TV credits such as BOSCH, SHAMELESS and SCANDAL, she has appeared in numerous shorts, features, and series, including festival darlings IN ABSENTIA (Raindance) and THUMPER (Tribeca). Gandhi has produced several series and films under the umbrella of her production company Elegant Grotesque (most recently SCRAP, starring Anthony Rapp and Vivian Kerr, and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ STRANDED ON THE EARTH, directed by Mike Bruce). She is also 1/2 of the musical duo, VATAVARAN, was born in England, raised all over the states, studied English and Women’s Studies, and trained at the American Conservatory Theatre in SF.

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