Until recently, black film had become an obsolete genre. Our generation no longer has Spike Lee films or movies with a definite agenda to promote black culture, but instead, recent films like “12 Years a Slave,” “The Help,” “Django Unchained” and “The Butler” are redefining the genre. Even better: They are resonating with today’s audiences.
Besides Tyler Perry comedies and Wayans brothers’ spoofs, there haven’t been many films that genuinely represent black people or spark genuine dialogue. In the last few years, however, there has been an explosion of movies on black culture.
“Dear White People,” for example, played at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and included shots of the University of Minnesota campus. It depicted racial tensions that are common among college students. With issues like affirmative action back in the nation’s dialogue, the movie may contextualize dated topics for new audiences.
Perhaps the resurgence is because of important events involving black people nationwide. These would include the election of President Barack Obama in 2008 and his 2012 re-election, the 2012 Olympic achievements of Gabby Douglas and unfortunate cases that sparked national outcry, like that of Trayvon Martin.
New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait connected 2013’s Best Picture winner “12 Years a Slave” with the racial subtext surrounding Obama. While historical perspectives of antiquated America dominate “12 Years a Slave,” “Django Unchained,” and “The Help,” it’s hard to ignore the real implications of these films when black Americans face comparable issues today.
Racial profiling and crime alerts, as well as the second-floor remodeling “white-washing” controversy, have been more pertinent to the University of Minnesota.
These real-life scenarios may be far off from film depictions, but they’ve caused society to be more alert and sensitive to racial issues. This explosion of black film has provided fertile ground for conversations and curiosity on lingering injustices.
As a society, we must continue to pay attention and constantly adjust our attitudes and sensitivity in order to truly evolve as a progressive and diverse country.