2020 was a difficult year all around but August brought with it a big blow to the world of cinema when it was announced that Chadwick Boseman had died. The actor had been secretly battling cancer for years and, on August 28th 2020, he died at his home aged 43. I know, in the age of social media, there’s always a huge outpouring of grief when a famous person dies but this felt slightly different. Boseman was a magnificent actor and was a big part of Black representation in the film industry. He had played some key figures in Black history and, as Black Panther, had proudly brought diversity to the MCU. Losing him so young was a shock and so many people felt it. Boseman’s talent will never be forgotten and he has justly been awarded with posthumous nominations for his work n Da 5 Bloods and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It’s a this time of year that I’d usually be trying to catch up on all of the films with all of the likely Oscar nominated films but I’m all out of sorts thanks to Covid. That wasn’t going to stop me watching this. I had high hopes for this film.
Do you remember all of the Oscar nonsense this year? When a bunch of white filmmakers said something to the tune of “race shouldn’t be a factor and it should be based on quality”. Well, that whole image of the best films/actors/directors/etc being rewarded goes up in flames when you consider Selma. When discussing the recent Black Lives Matter protests, actor David Oyelowo spoke out about the way the Oscars turned their backs on Ava DuVernay’s film. For anyone that missed it, Selma came out around the time that Eric Garner was murdered. When the cast wore “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts to the premier, the Academy didn’t like it one bit. They went so far as to say to the studio and producers ‘We are not going to vote for that film because we do not think it is their place to be doing that.’ So, Selma, a film that had received critical acclaim, was shunned for speaking out against police brutality. A film about the civil rights movement, one of the defining political movements in American history, was criticised for being too political. The Academy spat out its dummy and ignored the story of Black people standing up for their rights. And people wonder why #Oscarssowhite trended all over social media?
One of the things I’m tired of hearing about George Floyd is when people keep bringing up the fact that he had a criminal record. As if that, in some way, makes his death acceptable. That the fact that he was once in prison makes it okay that a police officer put his knee on George’s kneck for almost 8 minutes. Why does it matter who George was or what he was doing at the time? Nothing should be able to justify the death of a man regardless of what they’ve done. And what about all of those white men who were arrested for mass shootings? How many of them are still alive in prison despite murdering people? I mean Nikolas Cruz shot 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018. He was arrested “without incident”. Without incident? All George Floyd was arrested for was allegedly using a counterfeit $20 note. Allegedly. And he was killed. A 19-year-old white kid shot 17 other kids and was arrested “without incident”. And people still don’t think systemic racism exists? It’s bullshit.
There was plenty of controversy surrounding the release of this film. After a mass brawl broke out at a Birmingham cinema, Vue and Showcase cinemas decided to stop showing it. This decision was widely criticised for many reasons and eventually reversed. The decision to pull the film was described as dangerous and racist. Dangerous because the film would be seen as taboo. This would change the way that people engaged with it and the message at its core. At the same time, the decision was viewed as racist. The idea that a film showing gang violence would definitely push young people into mass violence was only strengthening the link between Black communities and uncontrollable violence. Especially as the film wasn’t actually as violent as other entertainment that’s widely available. Whatever the reasoning, it did just look like another attempt to diminish the release of non-white films. Even when they are made, they were being pulled at the slightest provocation. To compare, nothing was pulled from screens when a white dude killed 12 people and injured 70 other when he brought a gun into a screening of The Dark Knight Rises. So, why was this incident so different?
I know that I spend a lot of time moaning about Netflix Original films but, I have to admit, they do get it right now and then. The platform also manages to great some great filmmakers on board. Their 2019 releases on the streaming service saw Noah Baumbach and Martin Scorsese gain multiple Oscar nominations. Before he won awards and hearts, Bong Joon-Ho released the fantastic Okja. So, there have certainly been some high points and it looked as though it might have another. Spike Lee’s latest film Da 5 Bloods was released in mid-June. This was the first time we’ve seen Lee since his Oscar-nominated BlacKkKlansman and it couldn’t have come out at a better time. One of the major themes is how race fits into America. There is the same passion and anger that can be seen throughout the Black Lives Matter protests that have been happening all over the globe. What better film to watch when I’m trying to Amplify Melanated Voices?