Weekend Watchlist | Black History Month movies

By The Pitt News Staff

This weekend, our streaming recommendations feature movies that focus on Black experiences in America.

Moonlight (Netflix) // Megan Williams, Digital Manager

One of the most stunning movies in recent years, “Moonlight” (2016) explores what it means to exist at the intersection of several oppressions. Spread into three parts and over three decades, the story follows Chiron, a Black gay man dealing with poverty and the inability to live authentically. The first part, “Little,” follows Chiron in childhood (Alex Hebbert) dealing with bullies and a mother spiralling into extreme drug addiction. He befriends a kind dealer who teaches Chiron to swim and assures him, after being called a slur, that there is nothing wrong with being gay. The second part, “Chiron,” sees the titular character as a teenager having his first sexual encounter with childhood friend Kevin. Enraged with the continued bullying and his mother’s extreme drug use, Chiron fights back and is arrested. The final part, “Black,” follows adult Chiron’s journey to self-acceptance.

Painfully intimate, “Moonlight” is the type of movie that hurts in the best ways. Once you watch, you’ll marvel at the idea of “La La Land” even being nominated next to this masterpiece.

Selma (Prime Video) // Sarah Stager, Contributing Editor

After a year full of protests against police brutality, many of the scenes in “Selma” (2014) may look chillingly familiar. The film follows Martin Luther King Jr. (Daniel Oyelowo) and his group of activists as they prepare for and embark on the marches of 1965 from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital, Montgomery.

The film sticks close to history, portraying the violence and suppression that Black people faced in their daily lives, as well as the cold brutality with which the police attack the peaceful protesters. It serves as a grim but important reminder that our present-day problems are not new — they are simply a continuity of the discrimination that Black people have always faced in this country. Though the film does not shy away from the darkest moments of the civil rights movement, it still leaves the viewer with a glimmer of hope. King ultimately succeeds in his mission, representing a small victory in the ongoing fight against voter suppression and discrimation.

Disclosure (Netflix) // Rachel Bachy, For The Pitt News

From executive producer Laverne Cox, the eye-opening documentary film “Disclosure” (2020) focuses on the history of transgender representation in media. Americans’ societal perceptions of transgender individuals have been shaped by harmful depictions in film and televsion. Narrated by Hollywood’s most renowned trans creatives, this documentary aims to educate the Americans whose idea of transgender people ends with bigoted portrayals in media. We are introduced to the oppressive intersections of Blackness and transness as Cox and her peers describe the unseen world of discrimination both on and off set. By exposing cruel representations of transgender people in much of our culture’s most beloved cinema, this documentary re-informs a society warped by a deep-seated fear of those not like ourselves.

We live in a world of representation and celebration. We live in a world of bigotry and violence. “Disclosure” rediscovers what life looks like for those standing in the crossroads.

Hidden Figures (Disney +) // Ariana Siclari, For The Pitt News

Throughout history, Black women have endured brutal racism and sexism. “Hidden Figures” (2017) showcases the work of three Black NASA scientists — Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) — behind the historical feat of putting John Glenn into orbit during segregation. Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson worked together in the “colored section” of the workplace, where they were all subject to sexism and racism by their colleagues. Despite prejudice, each woman drove herself to accomplish personal and professional goals.

In the media, there is persistent misrepresentation and stereotyping of Black women, which in turn affects society’s opinion and treatment of them. “Hidden Figures” demonstrates a nuanced portrayal of Black women, shows an advancement in womankind for working in a STEM field and exhibits the strength, intelligence and resilience that Black women utilize to combat systemic racism.