Understanding Black Stories – Cineplex’s Initiative

Image credit: Courtesy of TIFF

I’ve mentioned it before, but Cineplex is where I think I became who I am. It’s been my longest ongoing (and off) job. It’s where I’ve met most of my closest friends. And for the ones who didn’t work there, I met because of people who had. I have love for the company. For a while, Cineplex had been silent after George Floyd’s murder but a team helped curate films to elevate Black stories, artists and filmmakers. And right now, you can go and rent them for free on the Cineplex store app. Cineplex showed up to the conversation and are doing their part to make a statement in the conversation.

Here is the link for you to rent and watch the films. Don’t know where to start? We have some suggestions.

Monsters and Men / Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green

Monsters and Men screened at Sundance and TIFF in 2018. I had the opportunity to see the film and it blew me away. It was my favourite discovery of the festival. It’s such a great film that should be watched as soon as you can. While prior films like Do The Right Thing and Fruitvale Station gives us everything before the incident, Reinaldo Marcus Green gives us the aftermath and how it affects the community. The death in the film is a stand-in for Eric Garner, a man who died after selling cigarettes caused by police brutality. His final words were “I can’t breathe.” George Floyd’s death mirrors Eric Garner’s in terrifying ways. Monsters and Men shows us the protests, what it means to be a Black cop during these times and also what it means to be a terrified young Black male. Anthony Ramos, John David Washington and Kelvin Harrison Jr. all-star and own every moment of their screen time. Green never gives us an answer of what to do next, he can’t do so. But instead, he offers a second suggestion other than just moving on and accepting it as a norm, but to unite. It’s the only way the world can sort of move on, just by picking each other up.

Fruitvale Station / Directed by Ryan Coogler

Ryan Coogler came out the gate swinging and the world hasn’t been the same since. Ryan Coogler was born and raised in Oakland and his love of his city is in every beautifully shot moment by Rachel Morrison. In Fruitvale Station, Coogler tells us the story of Oscar Grant. A retelling of the last day in the life of Oscar Grant. The film opens with the actual footage of what happened, and we slowly go through the day to find out how he arrived at Fruitvale Station. Even though we know exactly where the film ends, it’s still as disgusting, and just as horrifying. When Michael B. Jordan screams the words “you shot me, you shot me!” your heartbreaks. The moment lingers in your mind as you walk out of the dark movie theatre, and your heart is filled with sorrow and anger. And that’s the appropriate response. Ryan Coogler gave us one last look at not a perfect man, but one that was alive and filled with ambition and love. Through every moment of its short run-time, you just beg him to celebrate New Year’s at home. We are doomed to watch from our couches and cry with his family when he doesn’t. And we are doomed to watch from our couches and cry every time another Black man is killed by the police, but it’s up to us to go out and fight for their lives. This time we have to do our part.

Here are two of Arianne’s suggestions.

Pariah / Directed by Dee Rees

Dee Rees’ directorial debut is one of those LGBTQ+ movies that unfortunately not enough people have seen. I have seen it three times in theatres now (and countless more via streaming or my blu-ray), and every time it still takes my breath away. Pariah follows 17 years old Alike who starts to come to terms with her sexuality while trying to please her conservative parents. There’s something raw and honest about Dee Rees’ vision that just brings me to my knees every time I watch the film. Pariah rings true to so many people that too often get ignored, they deserve to see their story told. Seeing yourself on screen is important and too often queer black kids get the raw hand of the deal. It portrays a coming of age story that, unfortunately, isn’t represented enough. So many times, LGBTQ+ films center around the lives of middle-class white teens and their struggles but Pariah breaks that norm with such a force that it’s impossible to look away. It’s a story that deserves to be told, deserves to be known and seen.

Coach Carter / Directed by Thomas Carter

If you know me, you know that I live for basketball. (Yes, this has been a hard pandemic with having no NBA.) I played basketball for most of my childhood and teenage years and Coach Carter was one of those movies that I use to watch and try to do what I saw them do on the court. As a child, I didn’t get it, I couldn’t grasp the meaning behind the film and the experience that it was showing me. I was a white middle-class girl, I didn’t understand it. But with time, and many rewatch, it became something more. Coach Carter is more than just a basketball movie, it’s about family, class, race and all of that is wrapped into the story of a coach trying to get kids into college. It’s powerful and has amazing performances from actors that we know and love. This might be controversial but it’s my favourite Samuel L. Jackson performance, and I know he has some iconic one, but his role as Carter is so against the grain of what we are used to seeing from him that it works perfectly, he’s the center of the film and he anchor everything so well. If you think Coach Carter is just a dumb basketball movie, think again because it isn’t.