Slave Movie Conundrum: To Watch Or Not To Watch?

It’s difficult to argue against the notion that there is a market for movies about slavery. It seems like every few years a new one is put before us. The question before the Black community is, should we watch it? Should we continue supporting and watching stories continue to depict us as enslaved and beaten down?

Let’s get this out of the way: We need to know where we came and how we got here. We need to stay in touch with our history. And, for certain, it’s never been more important as the schools are banning books that are teaching these histories and tackling issues that impact Black people.. The movie theater, first and foremost, is about entertainment, but it has also been a way to shape cultural perspectives and to share information about history and historical figures. 

Take, for example, movies like Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, Hidden Figures, Selma,  Judas and The Black Messiah, and most recently, The Woman King. We can’t be certain everything we see in these films are the most accurate portrayals of the people and events depicted. However, the opportunity to visualize them can go a long way. 

And so we return to the question at hand: Should we continue watching and supporting slave movies?

The newest movie is set to be released on AppleTV and is called Emancipation. It features Will Smith as the star and is being directed by Antoine Fuqua. There was some discussion about it in the comments of an instagram post. Someone asked, “Why would Will Smith take this role?” As viewers it makes sense that we could be tired of this image of us on screen. But for the actors, there must be something powerful about being able to embody your ancestor and share a side of the story we have never seen before. Let’s not begrudge the artists of this opportunity. 

But these are not the only stories we have to tell and slavery is not the entirety of our history. Before and after slavery are filled with men and women whose fingerprints are all over this country and beyond. Maybe the answer to whether or not we should support slave movies, isn’t a binary one. Along with the stories that show the ugly side of slavery, we can also produce stories that show the variety and diversity of who we have been, who we are, and who we are continuing to evolve into. 

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