African-American citizens in a fist-raising protest

Documentaries about racism you need to watch

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We set out to find documentaries about racism that could broaden our scope and deepen our knowledge on the topic

Before and after the murder of George Floyd, racism has been a universal evil that ends the lives of thousands of African Americans and POC in the US, and the following documentaries prove it.

African-Americans protesting with Black Lives Matter banner
Courtesy: HispanTV

The causes are diverse. From a historical gap that left reminiscences of slavery, to the social inequalities caused by capitalism and neoliberalism. To the supremacist discourses perpetuated by hegemony and even the lack of social conscience bred at home.

American citizens protesting the death of George Floyd
Courtesy: El País

Therefore, each of these problems, to name a few, contribute to misinformation and the expansion of hate speech. But there is also that other side that struggles every day to eradicate racism. Hence, we give you this list of documentaries and series that will help you better understand the subject; and educate you (and us) on the abolition of this evil and the establishment.

I’m Not Your Negro (2016)

The first documentary on our list is I’m Not Your Negro, filmed in 2016 by Haitian Raoul Peck, based on James Baldwin’s book Remember this house on the prevailing racism that exists in the United States.

Documentaries on racism- I'm not your Negro
Courtesy: Zendaya

In it, we see references to the historical past of the African-American community contrasting with the crude present and its unresolved injustices. Moreover, Samuel L. Jackson embodies the narrative voice that tells us about the history of the United States through the memory of three murdered black icons: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Medgar Evers.

This masterpiece examines the different types of hate inherited by the American people. Especially when it is different in a hegemonic country. And worse, when you’re black and gay.

13th (2016)

That same year, 13th by Ava DuVernay came to the screen. A film that portrays in 100 minutes the relationship between black people and crime from the end of the American Civil War to modern-day America.

Documentaries on Racism / Cover of "13th"
Courtesy: La Cinetika

Thus, it reveals the prejudices, injustices, impunity, and failures of the legal system. Which maintains inequity and puts one in three black males in prison at present. DuVernay presents an accurate analysis of the relationship between prisons, the economic system, and segregation that the country lives in.

In fact, Netflix offered to produce a documentary on whatever topic she wanted and the filmmaker did not hesitate in exposing the continued criminalization of African-Americans in the US with 13th.

Time: The Kalief Browder Story (2017)

Directed by Jenner Furst, Time: The Kalief Browder Story is a harsh story that tells of the pitiful case of Kalief Browder, a Bronx high school student, who was held in solitary confinement for two years at the age of16 for allegedly stealing a backpack.

Time: The Kalief Browder Story poster
Courtesy: Zendaya

The story is complex, as the young man’s family finds it impossible to make bail for $3,000. Moreover, Kalief is then transferred to Rikers Island, where he spent three years in appalling conditions. As he awaited trial, even though he was never convicted.

The tragic story concludes with the young man’s suicide as the charges are dropped and he is released. Again, the ineffectiveness of the criminal system in the U.S. is exposed.

There’s Something in the Water (2019)

This intriguing documentary produced by activist and actress Ellen Page and film director Ian Daniel shows us the environmental racism that prevails in Nova Scotia and Canada.

Documentaries on racism/ There's something in the water
Courtesy: Filmaffinity

In addition, a province inhabited by indigenous women that seek to stop the damage caused by government agencies and the toxic effects of industrial waste. It is a rather illustrative and a very well documented film.

Additionally, the documentary is inspired by cases presented by Professor Ingrid Waldron in her 2018 book of the same name.

LA 92 (2017)

In their 2017 documentary, directors TJ Martin and Daniel Lindsay relive the case of Rodney King. A black construction worker who was arrested and brutally beaten by four white cops. The events were triggered because King was DUI.

Documentaries on Racism / Cover of LA 92
Documentaries on racism | Courtesy: Pinterest

However, this misconduct in no way justified the policemen’s actions. After this occurred, The Independent newspaper said that “He became a symbol of police brutality against African-Americans.”

The riots broke out and the balance was more than 12,000 people arrested and 63 lost their lives. Each of these aspects is embodied in LA 92.

Strong Island (2017)

The filmmaker Yance Ford’s debut feature is a film with a strong symbolic burden, both for the story it narrates as well as for that biographical aspect it has with the author. The plot is based on the murder of Yance Ford’s brother in the 1990s.

Cover of the documentary "Strong Island"
Documentaries on racism | Courtesy: Filmaffinity

On April 7, 1992, he went to pick up a car from a Long Island mechanic workshop and was shot dead by a white boy. Hence, Ford seeks to develop a rigorous reconstruction of the facts in search of the signaling of injustice, racism, and impunity.

Thus, we witness a chronology of facts where the filmmaker mixes police investigation with the grieving process that his family went through. Strong Island won at Sundance and nominated for Best Documentary at the 2019 Oscars.

Finally, in addition to the seventh art, citizens around the world have expressed concern about this appalling social phenomenon through art. For example, with the murals of the #BlackLivesMatter and those who honored the life of George Floyd.

This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)