Chicago — During Black History Month, streaming services, movie theaters and cable providers often highlight Black movies. STARZ is running a collection of award-winning films. Hulu has a genre called Black Stories. Tubi plans to air nearly 1,000 Black shows and movies.
Gen Z spends a lot of time on these streaming services and is the centerpiece for changing the status quo.
Every year we’ve seen commercials for “Roots: The Next Generations,” “The Birth of a Nation,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Django Unchained” with the same trauma genre showcasing — slavery. There’s more than just anguish in Black cinema — there’s love, comedy and success.
Ariana Allen, a youth care worker at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls in south suburban Chicago, said it is crucial for the film industry to diversify its portrayal of people of color.
“It’s important for theatres to showcase Black films other than those that depict slavery, or the harsher struggles Black people have faced. because growing up that’s really all we hear about when people talk about black history,” said 23-year-old Allen.
Hollywood has shown a large interest in the African American struggle and the Black community lives in this narrative every day.
Tori Carroll, who studies Film and Television at DePaul University, said movies like “Sankofa”, a film about a model who becomes a slave, should not receive a special spotlight in February.
“While these films are crucial to the education and legacy of the Black community, I feel it’s more important to allow Black people space from mentally draining images,” said Carroll.
Although some in Gen Z feel Black deprivation is a constant reminder of their past experience, others feel the trauma of history is where the narrative must begin in order to showcase a life beyond suffering.
“I think there should be content that brings awareness to things the Black community goes through,” said 21-year-old Kianna Murray.
Floyd Webb, creative director of E22, a multimedia company said there’s a triumph in our pain we see on the big screen.
“We have a traumatic history, but a lot of that history includes the victories of our survival in the oppressive wilderness of North American especially and the global Black diaspora,” said Webb.
To commemorate the survival, beauty, success and love within the Black community — here’s a list of five Black movies that do not focus on trauma.
“Roll Bounce” — Directed by Malcolm D. Lee (2005)
“Roll Bounce” is a timeless story about family dynamics, friends and the classic “underdog” plot starring Shad “Bow-Wow” Moss. Set in the 70s, this coming-of-age film allows Black audiences to enjoy the lighter part of the 70s with an amazing soundtrack. This film showcases a strong Black family dynamic as they navigate through life changes such as the loss of a parent and heartbreak. Beyond the great storyline, the entire cast was African American!
“Think Like A Man” — Directed by Tim Story (2019)
A rom-com based on a novel of the same name by Steve Harvey. This film captures the essence of Black love and comedy all in one. Starring Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart and Michael Ealy — a group of Black women begin reading a book by Steve Harvey in order to shape each of their men into the man they want to marry. This movie spotlights different variations of Black love. There’s also a sequel.
“Deuces” — Directed by Jamal Hill (2019)
Larenz Tate and Lance Gross are calling all the shots in this drama film! Gross portrays a policeman working undercover to take down a powerful crime ring, but in a plot twist begins working with the crime leader (Tate).
“The Photograph”— Directed by Stella Mehgie (2020)
Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield take the idea of Black love to new heights. Not only does this movie have a happy ending, but this movie also does a great job of showing audiences that chivalry is not dead! In the movie, a journalist named Michael Block (Stanfield) investigates the life of a former photographer. In his findings, he crosses paths with her daughter, Mae (Rae), and the two fall in love.
“Pariah” — Directed by Dee Rees (2011)
Identity and self-expression is the epitome of this film. Pariah is a 17-year-old Black girl who's learning to connect with her sexual identity as a lesbian. This movie beautifully illustrates the importance of embracing who you are.