Police brutality: All the shows and movies talking about it
While some movies are meant to entertain, some filmmakers create films to make a statement. These films & TV shows can be enlightening to some and a harrowing reality to others, especially when visual media portrays police brutality. Police brutality is a traumatic issue – one that some encounter frequently – and black filmmakers have revisited this topic from time to time in both film and television.
During this time of protests, it’s worth revisiting movies & shows meant to portray the black experience while also revealing truths that people of color have been experiencing for years. Here are just a few movies and shows that depict police brutality.
Note: As stated earlier, police brutality is a traumatic topic. Please take care if seeing police brutality, even in a fictional space, is too upsetting. Reader and viewer discretion is advised when watching movies and shows about police brutality, as some depictions are extremely realistic.
Blindspotting starts with a far-too-realistic scene of police brutality and the tension doesn’t lift until after the end credits roll. Cowritten by and starring childhood friends Daveed Diggs & Rafael Casal, Blindspotting takes place in Oakland and covers not only police brutality, but class, life after prison, and gentrification in this 2018 surprise hit.
Blindspotting relays the complicated realities of being in interracial relationships. With a thrilling ending that will leave you speechless, the film is a fascinating look at different perspectives about race and how fragile friendships can be in an ever-shifting society.
Boyz n the Hood
A coming-of-age film that changed history, Boyz n the Hood depicts the black experience in Los Angeles in 1984 & 1991. Its director, John Singleton, was the first black director to be nominated for Best Director, breaking barriers for black filmmakers while also introducing the world to fantastic talent like Cuba Gooding, Jr., Ice Cube, Regina King, Angela Bassett, and Nia Long.
Boyz n the Hood is a multifaceted look at what it means to grow up in a black community, featuring conversations about issues from the time that are still exceedingly pertinent today. It’s a phenomenal debut that still proves to be entertaining today.
Dear White People
After the success of the original Dear White People feature, writer-director Justin Simien created Dear White People the television show. While the series as a whole focuses on the black experience at an Ivy League school, Dear White People covers many significant topics about race.
Dear White People is brutal, and necessarily so. The tensest moments in the show are also the most realistic, especially in each season finale, where tension between characters reaches its height. Characters represent many different ideologies, giving multiple perspectives on relevant topics.
While not a perfect show – sometimes Dear White People falls into the pitfall of merely focusing on college and shallow relationships – it’s worth watching for critique on society from a young POC perspective.
Do the Right Thing
Before Boyz N the Hood there was Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. Idiosyncratic and offbeat with its saturated colors and comedic slice-of-life plot, it almost doesn’t seem possible that something so dark can happen by the end credits. And yet, as the summer heat rises, so do the brutal tensions on a street in Brooklyn.
Do the Right Thing’s climactic scene and ending are deliberately confrontational. There’s nowhere to hide from its fierce picture of police brutality, but it comes with power. Lee’s directing aesthetics may not be for everyone, but Do the Right Thing is incredibly apropos to current events, even though it’s 30 years old.
If Beale Street Could Talk
After the immense success of Moonlight, Barry Jenkins proved yet again that he’s one of the best filmmakers of today with If Beale Street Could Talk. A moving period piece, Beale Street doesn’t portray physical brutality, but features the subliminal tactics used by police that still harm people of color.
Based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same name,If Beale Street Could Talk follows a young black couple named Tish & Fonny in 1970s New York as they fall in love. One day, Fonny gets arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. If Beale Street Could Talk is heartbreaking but essential, with incredible performances & direction in its portrayal of a loving couple that must separate due to racism & prejudice.
Orange is the New Black
While this show does not cover police brutality per se, Orange is the New Black has depicted many scenes of brutality by the security guards on the inmates of the fictional Litchfield Penitentiary.
Not only does Orange is the New Black focus on assault on women, it also takes inspiration from real-life police brutality. The show’s most harrowing depiction is in the penultimate episode of season 4, when a beloved character unexpectedly dies. The way OitNB portrays the death is very similar to real-life events, making it even more disturbing.