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Film Challenge: Black History Month (UK) 2020

There is a chance you were unaware that October was Black History Month in the UK, because so I was. I came up with this challenge after realising this was the case - to watch at least 20 films made by and/or starring black people. I am a bit ashamed that I had to call this a challenge at all. Surely, my watching patterns would include black centered narratives already? 

When I could only come up with a couple of names of films to be part of this challenge by myself and had to consult various lists online, I knew this wasn't the case.

The goal of this was not to appear like a good ally but rather just to enjoy cinema that I had maybe missed out on. If I came to understand some things I had been unaware of before, then I thought that would be an added bonus.

I am happy to say that exceeded my goal of 20 films, something which I was able to document on Twitter and Letterboxd. I will link to the tweet thread and the full list with all of my in-the-moment reviews. 

Here, I have decided to write fleshed out reviews of some of the films I rated highest. I'm going to start with my favourite horror films because Halloween has just gone.


Get Out (dir. by Jordan Peele, 2016)

A white background. A man on the lower half of the image whose head is shaped like a mug. A hand from above is stirring spoon into the man's head. The text reads 'Get Out'.
Source: The New York Times

I was so excited to rewatch this for Halloween. There is a very large chance that you already know about this film. It won an Oscar for Best Screenplay and is cited for reinvigorating the modern horror genre. If you haven't watched it, and also haven't had it spoiled for you, please watch it! All I'm going to say about it is that it's about Chris going to visit his white girlfriend's parents for the weekend. And things occur.

Available to purchase through Amazon and YouTube

Tales From The Hood (dir. by Rusty Cundieff, 1995)

A black and white image of a skull with a gold tooth and sunglasses. The text reads 'From Spike Lee & The Producer of Menace II Society' 'A Rusty Cundieff Film' 'Tales From The Hood' 'Your most terrifying nightmare and your most frightening reality are about to meet on the streets.'
Source: IMP Awards

I love a good anthology horror and the framing device for this one is very interesting. We are taken through a funeral home where the director tells three men four stories of horror based around racial politics and masculinity. What culminates are some gruesome truths and even more gruesome body horror. I'm very glad I watched this film because I think it's become one of my favourites.

Available to purchase through Amazon

Snake Eyes: An ASMR Nightmare Experience (dir. by Mitchell Slan and Costantino Ciminiello, 2020)

A black and white drawing of a woman surrounded by dice. In the background, there is a snake-like creature. The text reads 'An ASMR nightmare presents Snake Eyes'
Source: ALTER

So, this fucked me up. This turned up in my YouTube feed and I was not prepared for it. If you don't know what ASMR is, then this is going to be a whole new experience for you. I'm not even sure I could describe it to you, but it was very creepy and the body horror impressed me a lot because this is an independent short film. Make sure you watch this with headphones.

Available to watch on YouTube

The People Under The Stairs (dir. by Wes Craven, 1991)

A suburban house is overlooked by a giant skull in the clouds. The text reads 'In every neighbourhood, there is one house that adults whisper about and children cross the street to avoid.' 'Now Wes Craven, creator of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" takes you inside...' 'Wes Craven's The People Under The Stairs'
Source: FFF Movie Posters

This one is absolutely mad. In an effort to save his family from eviction, 13 year old Pointdexter (also known as Fool) attempts to steal from his landlords with help from two men from his apartment building. What they find is that the people living in the house they break into are a lot more terrifying and have a lot more power than simply owning the building they live in. I love Wes Craven so much and this story might be one of the top films I've seen from him, touching on themes of poverty, race and the horrors of those with too much power. 

Available to purchase through Amazon and YouTube

His House (dir. by Remi Weekes, 2020)

A group of people staring directly into the camera. The text reads 'A Netflix Film' 'His House' '30th October' 'Netflix'
Source: IMP Awards

This came out the night before Halloween but I'd heard about it previously and was very excited to watch it. This film follows two asylum seekers as they adjust to living in Britain and attempt to deal with the grief of losing their child, which is manifesting as spirits in their new home and stopping them from finding peace. This film fluctuates from heartbreaking and genuinely terrifying, with the director making the realistically scary elements, such as racism and the threat of deportation, just as scary as the supernatural elements. Definitely worth a watch.

Available to stream on Netflix


Disclosure (dir. by Sam Feder, 2020)

Various film stills of trans characters are arranged on what looks like film strips, and these are coloured to look like a rainbow. The text reads 'Disclosure'.
Source: IMDb

This documentary is important and I think needs to be watched if you are any way interested in trans rights and/or filmmaking. Whilst a fairly simple documentary in form and structure, consisting of interviews and films clips, this film explores the portrayal of trans people on-screen and how this has affected the lives of real lives of trans people, especially the actors portraying the two-dimensional and often predatory characters. Honestly, if you've never interacted with a trans person and you have literally no clue why fictional portrayals are important in creating the image of trans people, then this would be a really good starting point for you. It is eye-opening and heart-warming, and honestly, to see so many trans people on-screen made me tear up a bit.

Available to stream on Netflix

A Love Song for Latasha (dir. by Sophia Nahli Allison, 2019)

A young girl wearing a flower crown has her eyes closed. The text reads 'A Netflix original documentary' 'A Love Song For Latasha' 'September 21st' 'Netflix'
Source: IMDb

This short film made me immeasurably sad. Avant-garde and dreamlike, this piece explores the case of Latasha Harlins, who was shot in the 90s for trying to buy orange juice, told from a very personal perspective, using interviews and footage from her friends and family. I really appreciated this, both for how it kept the balance between peaceful and harrowing, and for how it re-framed the conversation surrounding the death of black people in the US to one that is very personal, rather than simply another statistics. In its conversations, it bring systemic racism down to its microcosm, exploring how it has affected these people's lives. The most devastating thing about this short documentary is the lost potential of this young woman and the gap her death left in her family's lives.

Available to stream on Netflix

Generation Revolution (dir. by Cassie Quarless and Usayd Younis, 2016)

A stencil-like drawing of a person with their back to the frame. They are wearing a backwards cap with the words 'Black Lives Matter'. The text reads 'Generation Revolution'.
Source: IMDb

I am very glad I found this documentary on Netflix because I was severely lacking in films made by black British filmmakers. No film could be more apt for the modern moment. This films looks at the London revolutionary movements that defend and seek to amplify black British voices. With various different people interviewed, all with different methods of revolution, this film is able to give an honest portrayal of these movements, covering their successes and conflicts, not pulling any punches and not framing leftist politics as simply harmonious. By giving this balanced view, it forces the audience to make up their own minds about the movement but ultimately, it frames these movements as complex and nuanced, full of infighting and conflict, as with any movement. Worth watching simply because of how much it relates to the current fight in America for racial justice and equality.

Available to stream on Netflix

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (dir. by Xavier Burgin, 2019)

A dark movie theatre where the drawings of various black horror movie characters are sat in the seats. One of the seats has a sign hanging over it saying 'Coming Soon'. The text reads 'Shudder' 'Horror Noire'
Source: IMDb

This was one of the last films I watched for Black History Month and I honestly think it was a good place to round off the month. Combining horror and the African American identity, this film delves into the portrayals of black people and fraught relationship it has had with the genre, despite many of the audiences enjoying it being black themselves. It spans from the beginning of film up to the present, and is a good resource for someone studying film.

Available to stream on Shudder

You May Have Seen This...

Moonlight (dir. by Barry Jenkins, 2016)

A picture of a man lit in blues and purples. His face is segmented by colour, showing his face throughout his life. The text reads 'This is the story of a lifetime' 'Moonlight'.
Source: IMDb

I am not overstating this - Moonlight  means the world to me. It touched me when I first watched and it left me a sobbing mess when I re-watched it. It manages to look at queerness, poverty and addiction in such a kind but very real way, centering on the protagonist, Chiron, and performing a character study that portrays how these have affected how he interacts with the world and with his own self-image. I'm not giving any spoilers, but there is a scene with Chiron and his mother, Paula, that left me crying so hard that I had to stop the film. Even though I don't value the opinions of the Academy, I am glad that this film won the Oscar for Best Picture. It is phenomenal. I love it so much.

Available to purchase through Amazon and YouTube

Do The Right Thing (dir. by Spike Lee, 1989)

Two men looking up at the camera. One is holding a pizza. There is a young girl lying on the floor holding chalk. In chalk, there is a the word 'Bed Stuy'. In the corner, there is a chalk image of a police car and police officer shooting a gun. The text reads 'Do The Right Thing'.
Source: Letterboxd

When recommending seminal texts by black American directors, you will probably be recommended some work by Spike Lee, and it will most likely be this film. And there is a reason. It was important when I wrote about in an exam for uni and it is important today, the year of Lucifer Almighty 2020. This film follows a neighbourhood in Bedstuy on the hottest day of year. Whilst this film is mostly about Mookie, played by Lee, the streets are brought to life by various characters and events, the most important being the big one towards the end, which I won't spoil. As the heat rises, so does the tension, and the more irritated people become, the more unwilling they are to simply endure injustice. This film remains relevant simply because the discussions surrounding race in America has not evolved that much really at all.

Available to purchase through Amazon and YouTube

Attack the Block (dir. by Joe Cornish, 2011)

A group of people stood in front of a block of flats, lit up by various lights. The text reads 'Inner City Vs. Outer Space' 'Attack The Block'.
Source: IMDb

I was so happy to rewatch this film. It's honestly so much fun - a compelling sci-fi adventure set in South London, following a group of boys as they seek to battle the aliens that have crash landed on Earth. This was the first time I'd heard of John Boyega before Star Wars and he does so well here, taking the starring role and smashing it. I love that this is British because I feel like we don't have enough genre based cinema.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime

Cuties (dir. by Maïmouna Doucouré, 2020)

Four young girls walking down the street in a celebratory way, holding various shopping bags. The text reads 'Cuties'.
Source: IMDb

There is no way I could discuss this film without discussing the controversy it has garnered, on part because of Netflix but mostly because of its depiction of young girls. I have actively avoided most of the discourse surrounding this film because I don't believe that 1) most people complaining about the film have watched it and 2) the people who have watched it are acting in good faith. It is a lot easier to jump on a band wagon than to think critically about why something is making you uncomfortable.

This film centres an 11 year old girl, Amy, attempting to find a stable identity between her Muslim culture and her friends at school who are insisting on growing up a lot quicker than they are probably ready for. It is disturbing to watch at times, how these young girls watch and mimic a hyper-sexualised versions of womanhood, despite still being children. This is juxtaposed with the modesty culture that is being imposed on her by her family. What this culminates in is a blend that is forcing this young girl to see her body as adult before she is ready to even see herself that way. 

What many people have missed when reviewing or even just discussing this film is that the director is on your side - she also believes this, hence why she shows the adverse to reactions to the way the girl's bodies are portrayed. This is a film that I think many people will have written off and rated badly because they went in with Twitter discourse lodged in their head. I definitely think it deserves a watch and even praise for what it is trying to do.

Available to stream on Netflix

...But You May Have Missed This

Bamboozled (dir. by Spike Lee, 2000)

A racist caricature of a black child eating watermelon. The text reads 'Bamboozled'.
Source: Original Film Art

If you are any way aware racial issues, then the poster alone of this film might be giving you the ick. You might even be wondering why I'm commending a film that uses racist caricatures in its poster. But it's not what it seems. I'm not sure I've watched a film that does what this film does. Taking a satirical look at race as its intersects with the entertainment world, this film follows Pierre DeLacroix as he pitches a TV show with the purpose of getting him fired: a 21st century minstrel show where all the characters will be played by black actors wearing black face. To his surprise, the white executives love this 'edgy' idea and even worse, the audience loves it. What is a queasy look at how media influences its audience turns into a nightmare as the black characters react to the situation they had a hand in creating. 

Available for purchase through Amazon

Dayveon (dir. by Amman Abbasi, 2017)

A teenage boy on a bike looking back at the camera. The text reads 'Dayveon'.
Source: IMDb

This is such a quiet and empathetic film that I would have been sad to miss. I added this to my watchlist pretty late on in the month, finding it while scrolling through Netflix. This films is set in the wake of Dayveon's older brother being shot and follows him as he decides how he is going to deal with his grief as well how his life is going to go from now on. I don't think I've watched a film that refuses the binary of gang members and regular people the way this film does. It makes poverty and the trauma of death the antagonist rather than those who regularly commit crimes to survive. It takes a gentle look at masculinity that I would liken to Moonlight (2016), focusing on the bonds men forge between themselves.

Available to stream on Netflix

Burning Cane (dir. by Phillip Michael Youmans, 2019)

A young child standing amongst orange trees. The text reads 'Burning Cane'.
Source: IMDb

Initially, I wasn't a fan. This is a very slow film and my attention span is scrambled eggs at this point. But I fight my brain on a daily basis on writing things off before they even get going. By the end, I was floored by this film.

This film focuses on three characters: a preacher, a woman who attends church and her son. They are linked in their fight against alcoholism and the trauma that is inflicted through it. Like I said, it's slow, contemplative and avant-garde in its minimal dialogue and structure, but it is so powerful in what it is trying to convey. I can't say I had a pleasant time watching it, because it upset me deeply, but it is an excellent film. 

Available to stream on Netflix

Jezebel (dir. by Numa Perrier, 2019)

Two women, one is doing the one's hair. The text reads 'Jezebel'.
Source: IMDb

I was prepared to be really depressed when watching this because it's a film about sex work and films that explore this tend to be unbelievably bleak. However, this film, whilst it had its low moments when discussing the treatment of sex workers and what it is like to be living in poverty, remained honest as well as fun. There were moments where protagonist was legitimately having a good time with the girls she worked with. It was nice to see a sex worker just living her life, trying to make money, emphasising that the cause of people going into sex work is poverty under capitalism. Sex work is neutralised here and isn't even always sexualised - in fact, most of it is shown to be mundane.

Available to stream on Netflix

Rocks (dir. by Sarah Gavron, 2019)

Six teenage girls looking down at the camera, smiling and posing. The text reads 'Rocks'.
Source: CineMaterial

Drawing off traditional British realism, this film gives a complex portrayal of working class life as well black girlhood and the struggles that come with that. Following the protagonist, Rocks, we watch her struggle to care for her younger brother after their mother suddenly disappears. Exploring friendship and pseudo-motherhood, this film presents the tribulations that come with poverty whilst maintaining the relationships enough in the film so that it doesn't become the main focus. Honestly, the best part of this film is how it presents friendship between young girls and the extent they are willing to go to protect one another, as well as the length Rocks is willing to go to make sure she stays with her brother.

Available to stream on Netflix

Loop (dir. by Erica Milsom, 2020)

Two children on a lake in a canoe. The text reads 'Loop'.
Source: IMDb

This is a Disney short, centering on two children going out on a kayak, struggling communicate due to one of them being autistic and non-verbal. The way they are able to connect is through the young girl's phone, which plays a loop of sound, allowing her to communicate with those around her. Short and sweet, this film is able to convey more empathy for neurodivergent people than I've seen in many other films. It is obviously very disneyfied, but it explores so much in 10 minutes, showing two children finding common ground and sailing off into a friendship that neither of them would have expected.

Available to stream on Disney+


I have listed with each review where you can watch the films yourself if any of them interest you. Their availability on streaming services is correct for the UK as of the date I'm posting this.

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