Insightful films to watch on Netflix


NetflixRacial coverImages adapted from: IMDb, IMDb, and IMDb

People from around the world took to the streets after the killing of George Floyd. We’re not only holding our breaths for a virus cure but also expecting big changes in how we treat people by their race.

No matter where or who you are in the world – whether in the US or right here in Thailand, prejudice affects everyone, and it’s important right now to stand together as one community. Below are films offered by Netflix to reflect on themes of racial inequality.


1. 13th (2016)


Genre: Documentary

What’s it about?

NetflixRacial 13th
Image credit:
IMDb

13th discusses the American prison system and how a loophole gets exploited to put people of colour in prison.

What does the film tell us?

NetflixRacial Angela Davis
Source: Netflix/YouTube

The documentary expresses concern that even though the United States abolished slavery centuries ago, systemic racism continues to oppress people of colour.

Watch it on Netflix here.

Netflix has also kindly made this film available for free on YouTube here.


2. Ali (2001)


Genre: Biopic

What’s it about?

NetflixRacial Ali
Image credit:
IMDb

The film follows the career of Muhammed Ali, starting from the time he first became world heavyweight champion up until his iconic match against George Foreman*.

*The “Rumble in the Jungle” match between then 32-year-old Ali and 25-year-old Foreman marked Ali’s return as a heavyweight champion. It was also the first, if not one of the earliest events that brought Africa to the attention of the world media, with many celebrities and musicians reportedly attending the match.

What does the film tell us?

NetflixRacial Ali sceneSource: Movieclips Classic Trailers/YouTube

Ali’s choices throughout his boxing career relate to his religious faith and the civil rights movement. The film portrays him as an African-American who did not back down from a fight, even if standing up for his rights could cost his career.

Watch it on Netflix here.


3. Mudbound (2017)


Genre: Historical drama

What’s it about?

NetflixRacial Mudbound
Image credit:
IMDb

War veterans Jamie McCallan and Ronsel Jackson return home from the Second World War and struggle with survivor guilt and a society unwilling to look past racism.

What does the film tell us?

NetflixRacial Jamie and RonselImage credit: IMDb

The film makes passing mention to the Jim Crow laws* and the threat of lynching constantly looms over the Jackson family. The black community came home to the same discrimination they left despite serving in the war.

*The laws lasted from around the end of the American Civil War (1865) up until 1965. People of colour could not vote and had to use separate buildings from white Americans.

Watch it on Netflix here.


4. Imperial Dreams (2014)


Genre: Drama

What’s it about?

NetflixRacial ImperialImage credit: IMDb

A father, Bambi, leaves behind a life of crime to become a writer after his release from prison. He wants to raise his son, Daytona, despite the system working against people with criminal records.

What does the film tell us?

NetflixRacial Bambi and Daytona
Source:
Netflix/YouTube

The system in place makes it difficult for convicts to have the same rights when returning to society. On one hand, they can’t afford to pay off debts because no job will take someone with a criminal record. On the other, not being able to do so could mean going back to crime.

Watch it on Netflix here.


5. Da 5 Bloods (2020)


Genre: War drama

What’s it about?

NetflixRacial 5Bloods
Image credit:
IMDb

A squad of five African-American return to Vietnam decades later to search for their hidden cache of gold and the body of their squad leader. The gold turns out to be more trouble than it’s worth.

What does the film tell us?

NetflixRacial NormSource: Netflix/YouTube

Da 5 Bloods points to accomplishments by black individuals throughout American history and how they continue to fight for rights and against discrimination to this day. Even if they never see the day come where their fight is over (alluding to both their PTSD* and civil rights), they keep at it. 

The film also has a brief discussion about discrimination against mixed-races, showing that the problem is not only affecting Americans but other cultures as well.

*Post-traumatic stress disorder

Watch it on Netflix here.


6. All Day and a Night (2020)


Genre: Drama

What’s it about?

NetflixRacial All Day
Image credit:
IMDb

Jahkor Lincoln looks back on how his life led up to a murder. He reflects on his strained relationship with his father and how he wanted to make a life outside of the violence he grew around.

What does the film tell us?

NetflixRacial Nah
Source:
Netflix/YouTube

All Day and a Night shows that marginalized individuals can fight violence with violence or give their children a brighter future away from it. Even when Jahkor tries to turn over a new leaf, his inner demons draw him back to violence and what it means to “be a man” in a dog-eat-dog world. 

Watch it on Netflix here.


7. See You Yesterday (2019)


Genre: Drama

What’s it about?

NetflixRacial See You
Image credit:
IMDb

Teenagers Claudette and Sebastian travel back in time to save Claudette’s’s older brother, Calvin, from a fatal police shooting.

What does the film tell us?

NetflixRacial See You 2
Source: Netflix/YouTube

When tragedy happens, you move forward and help others not make the same mistakes. At the core of the film’s plot, this is part of what the protests are about – stopping history from repeating itself and moving away from dated concepts like racism.

See You Yesterday’s time travel plot allows younger audiences to understand the topic of police brutality by keeping the story small. It becomes a personal story about a girl who wants a world where none of her loved ones died to police brutality.

Watch it on Netflix here.


8. Strong Island (2017)


Genre: Drama

What’s it about?

NetflixRacial Strong Island
Image credit:
IMDb

A man shot William Ford Jr. during an argument, and the grand jury ruled the case as self-defence despite William being unarmed. His brother, Yance Ford, revisits his brother’s case in the hopes of finding out why they let his killer go free.

What does the film tell us?

NetflixRacial WilliamSource: Netflix/YouTube

The Ford family shows a side of William Ford Jr. as a caring brother and son who stood up for those he loved. His death should not have happened, and authorities dismissed his case like many others before him.

Watch it on Netflix here.

Netflix has also kindly made this film available for free on YouTube here.


9. The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)


Genre: Documentary

What’s it about?

NetflixRacial Marsha
Image credit:
IMDb

LGBT rights activist Victoria Cruz tries to find out what happened to Marsha P. Johnson, an African-American transgender activist whose death became a cold case.

What does the film tell us?

NetflixRacial Victoria CruzSource: Netflix/YouTube

Marsha represented both the LGBTQ and the African-American community, both having a common cause of protesting against an unfair system. She encouraged people to be unafraid of who they are and live by that view until her death – a message that’s nonetheless relevant to race.

Watch it on Netflix here.


10. American History X (1998)


Genre: Crime drama

What’s it about?

NetflixRacial AMX
Image credit:
IMDb

An ex-neo Nazi, Derek Vinyard, gets released from jail and decides to turn his life around. He tries to prevent his younger brother, Danny, from going down the same path as him.

What does the film tell us?

NetflixRacial Derek
Source:
TrailersPlaygroundHD/YouTube

In parallel to other films on this list, it is easy to misread American History X as being chock full of offensive scenes. It is brutally honest and ugly about what hate can do to people.

Note: This is a very graphic film and may offend some people. It is necessary to understand why the film made the choice of not sugarcoating a social issue. Viewer discretion is advised.

Watch it on Netflix here.


Communicating to one another


Although the film list here focuses on issues of racism that may seem more rampant in the United States, it’s still important to be aware of what’s happening. We can learn from these films and apply the lessons to the social issues at home.

Educating is the first step towards empathy and something as simple as what films we choose to watch changes our view of the world. Our sympathy and support go out to families affected by racial injustice.

You can donate to help the cause. But if you can’t, there are other ways to help, such as spreading awareness and supporting local black-owned businesses.


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