Category Archives: Blacks

Mean Things Happening: PBS Great Depression Series (1993)

PBS Great Depression Series, #5

Producer: WGBH, Boston

Narrator: Joe Morton

51 minutes

This documentary examines the efforts that tenant farmers and steelworkers undertook to organize and unionize amidst The Great Depression of the 1930s. Using interviews, film footage, and historians’ reflections, it recounts the privation and violent conditions facing H.L. Mitchell and the Southern Tenant Farmers Union (STFU), and industrial workers who formed the Steelworkers Organizing Committee (SWOC) of the burgeoning Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Racism, paternalistic company towns, heavy-handed anti-unionism and violent opposition posed grave obstacles to organizers in the Southern agricultural fields and Northern industrial cities alike. A key element to the success of the SWOC and CIO on the one hand, and the failure of the STFU on the other, was the legal framework protecting organizing, rights, and concerted activity for private-sector workers with the passage of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which expressly excluded agricultural and domestic workers who comprised much of the South’s workforce. The result was the rise of powerful unionism in much of the more industrialized North, Midwest, and West, and the concomitant absence of effective unionism from the more agricultural South and Southwest, in the Depression-riddled 1930s.


Brooklyn Castle (2012)


Tells the stories of five members of the chess team at a below-the-poverty-line inner city junior high school that has won more national championships than any other in the country. The film follows the challenges these kids face in their personal lives as well as on the chessboard, and is as much about the sting of their losses as it is about the anticipation of their victories. Ironically, the biggest obstacle thrust upon them arises not from other competitors but from recessionary budget cuts to all the extracurricular activities at their school. BROOKLYN CASTLE shows how these kids’ dedication to chess magnifies their belief in what is possible for their lives. After all, if they can master the world’s most difficult game, what can’t they do?


Ten Dollars an Hour

The story of an African-American cook working at an all-white fraternity house at the University of Mississippi.

Ten Dollars an Hour (Full Movie: 15m)



Southern Patriot (2010)

77m; U.S.
Director: Anne Lewis & Mimi Pickering
Distributed by California Newsreel and Appalshop

Synopsis: “Anne Braden: Southern Patriot (1924-2006)” is a first person feature documentary completed May 1, 2012. Braden rejected her segregationist, privileged past to become one of the civil rights movement’s staunchest white allies. In 1954 she was charged with sedition by McCarthy-style politicians who played on fears of communism to preserve southern segregation. In 1963 she became one of only five white southerners whose contributions to the movement were commended by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his famed “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” A relentless labor and political organizer, she fought for transformation and liberation throughout her life.  –



Divide (2011)

22m; U.S.

Director: Michael T. Miller and Maura Ugarte 

Synopsis: When it comes to politics, retired coal miner Sebert Pertee sees one big problem: the rich keep getting richer while working people lose ground. As he canvasses for pro-union candidates in 2008, he finds his community more focused on the race of the Democratic presidential nominee than on their own interests.

In McDowell County, West Virginia, long a union and Democratic Party stronghold, the battle for white working-class voters is taking an ugly turn. As politicians and pundits fan the racial flames, Sebert finds that race-baiting has long been a tried and true tactic to divide the miners. He’s determined to change the conversation, even if it rankles his neighbors. Race-baiting and union values collide in this short film, as Sebert struggles to take the fight to the real enemy.





The Help (2011)

146m; U.S.

Director: Tate Taylor

Cast: Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer

Synopsis (IMDB): Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, Skeeter (Stone) is a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends’ lives — and a Mississippi town — upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. Aibileen (Davis), Skeeter’s best friend’s housekeeper, is the first to open up — to the dismay of her friends in the tight-knit black community. Despite Skeeter’s life-long friendships hanging in the balance, she and Aibileen continue their collaboration and soon more women come forward to tell their stories — and as it turns out, they have a lot to say. Along the way, unlikely friendships are forged and a new sisterhood emerges, but not before everyone in town has a thing or two to say themselves when they become unwittingly — and unwillingly — caught up in the changing times.

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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Blacks, Drama, Service Workers


These Hands (1992)

45 minutes, 1992, Tanzania, Africa
Director: Flora M’mbugu-Schelling
in Kimakonde and Swahili with English subtitles

Who would have suspected that a 45 minute documentary about women crushing rocks, without narration or plot, would offer one of the most unforgettable and rewarding experiences of recent African cinema? Flora M’mbugu-Schelling’s quiet tribute to women at the very bottom of the international economic order ultimately deepens into a mediation on human labor itself. These Hands will stimulate viewers to rethink documentary and to question their own role as consumers in a global economy.



To Sleep with Anger (1990)

101m; U.S.

Director: Charles Burnett

Cast: Danny Glover, Paul Butler and DeVaughn Nixon

Synopsis (Wikipedia): Harry Mention (Danny Glover), an enigmatic drifter from the South, comes to visit an old acquaintance named Gideon (Paul Butler), who now lives in South-Central Los Angeles. Harry’s charming, down-home manner hides a malicious penchant for stirring up trouble, and he exerts a strange and powerful effect on Gideon and his thoroughly assimilated black, middle-class family, including wife Suzie (Mary Alice) and sons Junior (Carl Lumbly) and Babe Brother (Richard Brooks).

After Gideon suffers a stroke, Harry’s influence over the family grows, in particular over Babe Brother, the youngest son. Harry introduces him to a lifestyle of drinking and gambling, and encourages him to leave his wife to join Harry and his friends on the road. However, before Babe Brother gets a chance to leave, Junior confronts him. They fight, and their mother gets stabbed in the hand trying to separate them. After taking her to the hospital, Babe Brother decides to stay with his family instead of joining Harry. When Harry comes back to collect some things, he slips on some marbles belonging to Babe Brother’s son, and dies. Soon after, Gideon gets out of his bed for the first time in months, causing the viewer to question the relationship between Harry’s presence in the house and Gideon’s sickness.


Trouble the Water (2008)

90m; U.S.

Director: Carl Deal, Tia Lessin

Synopsis: A redemptive tale of an aspiring rap artist surviving failed levees and her own troubled past and seizing a chance for a new beginning in post-Katrina New Orleans.

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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Blacks, Documentary



Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1987)

110m; U.S.

Director: Stan Lathan

Cast: Avery Brooks, Kate Burton, Bruce Dern, Samuel L. Jackson

Synopsis: Film version of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s abolitionist novel.

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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Blacks, Drama, Slavery