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5 African American Movies You Need to Watch Before We Enter 2022

Dec 24, 2021 10:00AM ● By Anand Subramanian

2021 is coming to an end, and before we embark on a new chapter in our lives, it's time to reflect on and enjoy the African American films that dominated our screens of all sizes. This year, there was something for everyone, from exquisite period pieces to action-packed western movies, to jump scares. With the globe remaining on lockdown for the first half of the year, streaming reigned supreme, providing audiences with greater variety and choice than ever before. With streaming platforms increasingly likely to give opportunities to Black filmmakers, determining which ones you should watch before 2022 was difficult, but we came up with a top 5. So make some popcorn, snuggle up in a blanket, and tune in.

Concrete Cowboy

Concrete Cowboy is a 2021 American Western drama film directed by Ricky Staub and based on a script written by Staub and Dan Walser. The film is based on Greg Neri's novel Ghetto Cowboy, which was inspired by the genuine urban African-American horse-riding tradition of Philadelphia, namely the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club. What fans admire about Idris Elba is that he can flourish in any genre. Many know he's a fantastic actor, but not everyone has his range. Concrete Cowboy allowed him to show off a fresh side of his abilities as Harp, a father attempting to prevent his estranged son from committing the same errors he did. His presence, as always, fills every scene, yet it never overpowers co-star Caleb McLaughlin's performance. The two transform an everyday coming-of-age narrative into an engrossing tale of a community defending its integrity.

Figure 1 - A Still from Concrete Cowboy. Source - Google

Summer of Soul

Summer of Soul (or, When the Revolution Couldn't Be Televised) is a 2021 American documentary film on the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival directed by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson. Questlove resurrects that history with this game-changing documentary. Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, The 5th Dimension, and The Staple Singers all performed in the evening. Questlove has a genuine love and regard for these performers, as seen by the spotlight he provides them here. There's something about the way the editing maintains pace with the music, and the way the speech complements rather than overshadows what's onstage. In several of these sections, facts, gyration, jive, and humor coexist while remaining in balance. The gift he has given to audiences and these performers by repairing this video will have a long-lasting impact because it will motivate other filmmakers and documentarians to highlight fresh, untold tales.

Figure 2 - Poster from Summer of Soul Movie. Source - Google

Malcolm & Marie

When the appropriate movie comes along at the right time, it may have a huge influence. Sam Levinson's 
Malcolm & Marie is a 2021 American black-and-white romantic drama film that he wrote, produced, and directed. The film stars Zendaya and John David Washington (who also act as producers) and follows a writer-director and his girlfriend whose relationship is put to the test on the night of the premiere of his newest film, as secrets about themselves emerge. The opening 25 minutes of Malcolm & Marie stand alone as a good short film. They're mainly well-written, and Zendaya and Washington give what seems like historical context between the words. Witnessing Malcolm and Marie's extremely honest dispute was a catharsis for the spectators. The film's 35mm black-and-white appearance is maintained by the director of photography Marcell Rév, and it is smoothly edited by Julio C. Perez IV. Washington gets to show off a few different emotional registers that we haven't seen before, and he's at his finest when he lets Malcolm be genuinely nasty, a man who projects his fears on everyone around him. However, this is Zendaya's film, and she demonstrates again that she can give depth to everything she does.

Figure 3 - Photograph from Malcolm and Marie. Source - Google.

King Richard

King Richard is a 2021 American biographical drama film directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green and written by Zach Baylin about the life of Richard Williams, the father and coach of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, who act as executive producers. Will Smith plays the lead character, while the cast also includes Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Tony Goldwyn, and Jon Bernthal. We've known Richard Williams was a difficult man for a long time. His faith in his daughters' abilities on the other hand, never wavered. Will Smith plays all the facets of this husband, father, and tennis teacher in King Richard. The film also explains how Venus and Serena became the trailblazing icons they are today. Smith, like his real-life counterpart, dominates the film, but it's Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, and Demi Singleton as Oracene, Venus, and Serena who are the film's heart and soul. The film's final moments take place in 1994, when Venus Williams, 14 years old and in her second professional tennis match, confronts Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario, the world's top-ranked player at the time. If you don't know the conclusion, you should avoid Googling. Even if you remember the game precisely, you could find yourself holding your breath and feeling conflicted emotions as you watch Reinaldo Marcus Green's superb and tense reenactment.

Figure 4 - A still from King Richard. Source - Google


Fatherhood is based on Matthew Logeline's book Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love. This film is relevant to solitary fathers and added a great touch to the Father's Day holiday. Sony Pictures planned to distribute it in theatres, but it was instead shifted to Netflix. Fatherhood is about a guy who loses his wife Liz (Deborah Ayorinde) after their daughter Maddy is born (Melody Hurd). He discovers that raising a child and becoming a wonderful parent are not easy tasks and that it truly takes a village. He eventually receives help from family, friends, and even his employer and the new girlfriend. This film provides a complete 360-degree look at what it takes to be a single father. This is an excellent family film.

Figure 5 - Still from Fatherhood. Source - Google

 Anand Subramanian is a freelance photographer and content writer based out of Tamil Nadu, India. Having a background in Engineering always made him curious about life on the other side of the spectrum. He leapt forward towards the Photography life and never looked back. Specializing in Documentary and  Portrait photography gave him an up-close and personal view into the complexities of human beings and those experiences helped him branch out from visual to words. Today he is mentoring passionate photographers and writing about the different dimensions of the art world.

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