10 stirring, staggering and educational Netflix films on race and racial injustice to watch right now.
Netflix: When They See Us
Netflix: When They See Us
As we enter another week of protests across the globe following the unlawful murder of George Floyd, one thing has been made clear: we have to educate ourselves on the causes that have led us to this point. Begin to immerse yourself in books, podcasts and films to understand the struggle and injustice that black people have faced in dealing with systemic racism and the judicial system, here and in the US.
Whether it’s microaggressions or prejudice, witnessing what black people face in society is the first step we can take to begin to prevent creating new wounds. From documentaries, to fictionalised accounts, Netflix provides an easy entrance into some important literature in the canon, such as When They See Us and Fruitvale Station. Take a couple of hours out of your day and dive in deep to the dysfunctional and corrupt justice system at the heart of our society…
When They See Us
Based on the horrific and gut-wrenching true story of the Central Park Five, When They See Us takes us through the 1989 assault and rape case of Trisha Meili, a 28-year-old white woman who was jogging through Central Park. In the days following the attack, five black teens from Harlem were falsely accused of the brutal attack, as the prosecution painted the group as violent, animalistic teenagers. The powerful and harrowing story shows not only the effects of systemic racism but how quick the judicial system is to accuse a black teen of a crime and rip away their innocence.
The thought-provoking documentary chronicles the criminalisation of African-Americans following the US prison boom. Filmmaker Ava DuVerny explores the history of racial inequality and how prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans.
The documentary shows how the system is designed to get black men into prison as young as possible, in order to trap disenfranchised black communities. Featuring activists, academics and political figures from major US political parties, the Emmy award-winning documentary is truly a shocking insight into the world of systematic racism and the continuing failings of the judicial system.
Based on the Broadway play, American Son follows Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale as an estranged couple whose son goes missing. The couple spends the night at a Miami police station in search of answers about their missing son Jamel. With themes of police brutality and unconscious bias, American Son showcases the treatment of victims families and the system’s failure to aid black families in the aftermath of a murder.
Based on the events leading up to the death of Oscar Grant – a young black man who was killed in 2009 by a BART police officer, Fruitvale Station depicts the final day of the 22-year-old. The tough and moving drama frighteningly replicates today’s events with the officer suffocating Grant and ultimately shooting him dead. The emotional and tear-jerking film touches upon police brutality and injustice in America.
Shedding light on the 1992 Los Angeles riots, LA 92 has glaring similarities between today’s protests and those that took places 26 years ago. Triggered by the acquittal of four white police officers for brutally beating Rodney King, an unarmed black motorist – LA subsequently had a period of protest, resistance and riots. With the trial held in a white suburb with a predominately white jury – which hugely influenced the outcome, the trial is widely considering one of the most harrowing cases and is fitting for the current situation.
The Death And Life Of Marsha P Johnson
At the heart of New York City’s gay liberation movement was black transgender activist Marsha P Johnson. In 1992 her body was found in the Hudson River, with circumstances to this day that are unclear. The NYPD rules the death as a suicide, but no formal investigation was never undertaken. The documentary opens up the conversation on discrimination, police apathy and injustice.
Trial By Media: 41 Shots
From Netflix’s show Trial By Media, 41 Shots tells the story of the brutal killing of Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo by NYPD officers in 1999. The unarmed black man was shot 41 times while trying to enter his own home. Despite all these factors, all police officers involved were acquitted, leading to a firestorm of controversy and outrage in New York. The insightful episode teaches us all lessons that resonate in today’s society.
Time: The Kalief Browder Story
Refusing to plead guilty, 16-year-old Kalief Browder endures the brutality of the notorious Rikers Island’s adolescences unit and repeat abuse of the prison’s corrupt officers. The Bronx high school student was imprisoned for three years awaiting trial, two of which were solitary confinement for being accused of stealing a backpack.
The case was never prosecuted and the charges ultimately dropped, but Browder committed suicide after his release. The six-part documentary provides insight into the mental, physical and sexual abuse the young boy sustained in prison. The case has been widely cited by activists, campaigning for reform of the New York City criminal justice system and sheds light on the untrustworthy system.
The 2017 true-crime documentary opens the doors to one family’s heartbreaking tragedy, offering a sobering picture of racial injustice. Filmmaker Yance Ford investigates the 1992 murder of a young black man, Willian Ford Jr – Ford’s young brother. The emotional story depicts the grief and aftermath of the acquittal of 19-year-old white chop mechanic Mark P. Reilly – who was declared not guilty by an all-white grand jury. The unforgettable documentary showcases the deep-rooted racism in America and the tribulations black people have to go through to live a normal life.
When 15-year-old black cyclist Brenton Butler dies in a hit-and-run with a white police officer behind the wheel. Jersey City explodes with racial tension and grief, as the family comes to terms with their loss. The heartbreaking drama takes us through the difficulties faced trying to prosecute a police officer – with the state and judicial system all on the opposing side.