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Charlie recommends: Documentaries to understand Black History

Black To Techno Still 1 copy

As our popular Doc Club has gone online, we have continued to search for the most inspiring documentaries on the internet to enjoy and get our doc fix. This month Head of Video at the Guardian, and Folkestone resident, Charlie Phillips has given us his top five documentaries to watch...

Recent weeks have seen a lot of people wake up to the need to understand more about black history, so here's some documentaries doing just that, mostly focusing on stories here in the UK:

  1. John Akomfrah's Stuart Hall Project is a tribute to, and a platform for, the man who brought cultural studies to academia. His influence on current framings of world events around race, gender and class is massive. This film, which combines his words with archive footage of British black history, is a great place to start on looking at Akomfrah's whole body of work of the last 40 years.

    Watch The Stuart Hall Project here 
  2. I only recently watched Blacks Brittanica for the first time, after the curator Ash Clark recommended it on social media. Made for American TV, and initially suppressed, it presents the views of black working class people in 1978, as they face pressure from the police, the wider state, and a new wave of street racism. Putting it in a wider context of the decline of Britain, and with very little mediation interrupting stark views expressed, you're left wondering what's changed.

    Watch Blacks Britannica here
  3. Generation Revolution was made in 2014 by Cassie Quarless and Usayd Younis, and features the new wave of British anti-racism protestors who rose up as counterparts to the US Black Lives Matter movement. It's great both for the impressiveness of their protests and theoretical basis, but also in showing starkly the challenges of maintaining a movement in the face of opposition within and without. It's very relevant for those on the streets at the moment as they strategise on keeping up energy and interest.

    Watch Generation Revolution here
  4. The Hard Stop is George Amponsah's in-depth look at the killing of Mark Duggan and subsequent riots in 2011. Focusing on two of his friends, it's a window into the context of their upbringing, and particularly the impact of a skewed policing and judicial system on their lives. It may seem to be about the riots on the surface, but it's a lot more, a meaningful look at black British masculinity beneath the headlines.

    Watch The Hard Stop here
  5. I didn't only want to talk about documentaries about pressure and protest, so finally I also recommend the incredible Black to Techno, Jenn Nkiru's short about techno's origin story in Detroit. Anything she does is full of head-spinning ideas, but this is particularly good, linking the automation history of Detroit and the physical space of its factories to a growing feeling of hope and revolutionary energy in its black communities. 

    Watch Black to Techno here 

For the next Doc Club online we will be watching and then discussing Talking About Trees on Wednesday 8 July. Click here for more information.

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