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General discussion about what's out for the couch.

race issues in america - on film - please help
Topic by: kingturtle
Posted: October 30, 2005 - 6:39 PM PST
Last Reply: December 18, 2005 - 11:03 AM PST

author topic: race issues in america - on film - please help
post #1  on October 30, 2005 - 6:39 PM PST  
hi, i am teaching a unit in my high school U.S. History class on the history of race and racism in the United States (post Civil War). subject matter will include the Zoot Suit Riots, the KKK, Japanese Internment Camps, Segregation (Jim Crow, Plessy v. Ferguson), Sit Ins, Freedom Rides, Rosa Parks, the Black Panthers, Brown v. Board of Education, the Little Rock nine, Jackie Robinson, etc.

i want to share with the class quality scenes from movies that deal honestly with racial relations and racial tensions in the United States.

i am asking you for your recommendations of quality scenes from movies that address different points of view regarding race, racism and racial relations in the United States. I am not wanting entire movies, just specific scenes.

if there are scenes regarding race in america that you feel american 16 year olds should see, let me know.

thank you in advance.
post #2  on October 31, 2005 - 2:13 AM PST  
the glass shield is a good one for black/white relations. lots of material for discussion.

i'm really having a hard time coming up with movies that deal explicitly with majority mistreatment of other ethnic or religious minorities. of those i can think of for spanish-ish people, racism isn't front and center. i don't know any films that deal with asian/european relations before WW2 - same with jewish/christian. native/european stories, if they deal with bad stuff, focus on the genocide and not the situation now.

this is just from what i've seen. obviously i haven't seen every movie out there. actually i'm pretty unhappy that i can't make a list at all. when i realized how much easier it is to draw up a black/white list, i guess i got a little pissed.
post #3  on October 31, 2005 - 7:47 AM PST  
It's a tricky thing to pick out specific scenes... as a broad issue racism seems to be most effectively and directly depicted in the guise of comedy (Blazing Saddles) or SF (Alienation). There are plenty of films that are racist, though. Many comedies rely on racial jokes...

You can help us, kingturtle, by maybe giving us one example of what you mean, as a teacher... a scene that you have already decided would be perfect for your course.

Mississipi Masala has a lot of ironic moments that point out how Indian families judge other Indians (like prospective brides) based on how "dark" or "light" they are, then mixing things up by bringing in a romance between the protagonist and a black Southerner.

I'm sure there are plenty of films from which to cull racism against Blacks in the South... Mississippi Burning, In the Heat of the Night, To Kill A Mockingbird. Also Blaxploitation films from the '70s probably have scenes where the bad guys are white bigots... but I can't point to any specific examples.

Alamo Bay would be good for White Texans VS. Vietnamese but it's not out on DVD.

You'd think a film like Bagger Vance would be a goldmine but apparently the issue of racism is pretty much glossed over. There must be sports film that deal with racism and the color barrier, though. Baseball, boxing, stuff like that. And aren't there films about the military that deal with racism? How about films that deal with the lives of jazz musicians during the first half of the 20th century? I just remember some PBS/British weepie that dealt with an affair between a black American serviceman and a white English housewife. I think when they're found out, the black soldier gets courtmartialed and sentenced to hang. Anyway, there was a scene in there where the housewife is telling the soldier how much she likes Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit, and then he tells her what the song is really about. I can't remember the name of the show, though.
post #4  on October 31, 2005 - 8:07 AM PST  
Oh, that film was called The Affair... The NY TIMES page has a pretty good description of it, but curiously links a photo from the Natalie Wood Robert Wagner movie of the same name...

Hey, that script would make a pretty good Bollywood film if we transplanted the situation somewhat... Oh, but it wouldn't be American then....
post #5  on October 31, 2005 - 2:30 PM PST  
examples would be scenes from
*Do The Right Thing (like the discussion involving "Who's your favorite basketball player" with comments like "Magic, Eddie, Prince are not niggers, I mean, are not Black. I mean, they're Black but not really Black. They're more than Black. It's different.")
*American History X (the KKK recruitment scenes, the scene at the dinner table, the final monologue)
*Barbershop (the scene discussing O.J. and Rosa Parks)
*KKK scenes from Birth of a Nation
*Guess Whos Coming to Dinner (i haven't seen the movie in ages, but i am sure there is a scene in there that gets to the issues at hand)

I have not seen Rosewood, The Hurricane, Romper Stomper, Mississippi Masala or Crash. I am curious to know about them.

post #6  on October 31, 2005 - 4:02 PM PST  
I could think of just a handful off the top of my head. Of course, Spike Lee has hit on this subject in many films from Malcolm X to the inter-racial romance in Jungle Fever. But I can't think of specific moments.

Heart of Dixie (a so-so film) does specifically portray at the end a scene of forced integration at a southern university complete with National Guard troops in place to protect a lone black student.

There's a moment in Driving Miss Daisy where Hoke is badgered and humiliated by southern cops.

Snow Falling on Cedars is the only movie I know of on DVD that deals with the internment camps in this country during WWII. But I haven't seen it, so I can't recommend a scene to look at.

Thunderheart is a good film depicting the modern reservation life of Native Americans.

And for levity (somewhat) you could throw in the KKK rally from O, Brother Where Art Thou.
post #7  on October 31, 2005 - 6:09 PM PST  
> I have not seen Rosewood, The Hurricane, Romper Stomper, Mississippi Masala or Crash. I am curious to know about them.

Romper Stomper isn't American... it's from Australia.


MissMas one of the top 5 films for intercultural/racial issues

Another view of MissMas

Yet another analysis of MissMas
post #8  on November 1, 2005 - 4:35 AM PST  
I thought CRASH was quite good and it dealt with different kinds of racism, but in a modern setting which might not be what you're looking for. In 1990 Alan Parker made COME SEE THE PARADISE, which is about the internment of the Japanese (I haven't seen it;reviews were mixed.) Parker also made the controversial MISSISSPI BURNING, which had some powerfull scenes of lynchings and beatings;unfortunately it also showed the FBI as heroes of the civil rights movement. One of my favorite movies is the heavily banned SALT OF THE EARTH, which deals with race, class and gender issues in New Mexico. And from the silent days there's WITHIN OUR GATES by Oscar Micheaux (the first prominent african american director ever)which was Micheaux's response to BIRTH OF A NATION;it contains a still shocking lynch scene along with numerous other scenes dealing with the race issues of its day. (This one may be tough to find, but worth the search; it plays on TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES sometimes). And from mainstream Hollywood there's THE DEFIANT ONES; indeed, most of Sydney Pointier's earlier films dealt with racism.
post #9  on November 1, 2005 - 6:37 AM PST  
> On November 1, 2005 - 4:35 AM PST ALittlefield wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> indeed, most of Sydney Pointier's earlier films dealt with racism.

Yes, Mr. Pointier was excellent as the evil bigoted Count in the animated classic The Point!! That's actually an excellent film to instruct young people about discrimination.

Another good one is the Star Trek Episode 70, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" starring Frank "The Riddler" Gorshin as some kind of law enforcement officer hot in pursuit of some kind of terrorist. They're both from a planet where people are black on one side and white on the other, as you can see from this photograph. At first Kirk and the gang can't figure out why there's some racial issue here, until Bele or Lokai (I can't remember which) points out the OBVIOUS (to them anyway). Bele is white on the left side and black on the right side. Lokai is white on the right side and black on the left side! Apparently this one difference led the two "races" to centuries of animosity that eventually doomed their planet.

Both of these are really TV fables that are not set in America, but they highlight the ideals of Americans circa 1970 as the Civil Rights Movement got more mainstreamed.
post #10  on November 1, 2005 - 5:32 PM PST  
Gentleman's Agreement is good for raising issues of descrimination against the Jewish. The most memorable scene for me involves Gregory Peck not being allowed to check-in to a hotel.

Silver City has some good material about the problems faced by undocumented immigrants. (But I can't recal any good scene displaying overt racism.)

post #11  on November 1, 2005 - 7:29 PM PST  
> On October 31, 2005 - 2:30 PM PST kingturtle wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> I have not seen Rosewood, The Hurricane, Romper Stomper, Mississippi Masala or Crash. I am curious to know about them.
> ---------------------------------

I would say Romper Stomper, though it's Australian, would be an excellent movie to use. There are scenes there which convincingly portray the sort of racial rhetoric and the psychology of racist groups, though obviously it has nothing to do with American history beyond that. Most of these are in the first half of the film, such as when the main character explains and attempts to justify his racist ideology to his new girlfriend near the beginning of the film. It's also a good film for looking at how race and class interact.

Though it's not a movie about racism, there is a good scene in Medium Cool in which the main character breifly debates some Black Panthers. This movie might be particularly interesting because it was filmed in the late sixties, and at least some of it (the riot at the end, for instance) is literally real.
post #12  on November 2, 2005 - 9:25 AM PST  
Here are a few titles that explore racial issues either directly of indirectly, although some have been mentioned already. Unfortunately, not all of them are available on DVD.

4 Little Girls
Alamo Bay
American History X
Blackboard Jungle
Boyz n the Hood
Come See the Paradise
Do The Right Thing
Far from Heaven
Get on the Bus
George Wallace
Go Tell It On the Mountain
The Great White Hope
In the Heat of the Night
The Intruder
The Long Walk Home
Lone Star
Missisippi Burning
Putney Swope
A Raisin in the Sun
Snow Falling on Ceders
A Soldier's Story
A Time to Kill
To Kill a Mockingbird
White Dog
Zoot Suit
post #13  on November 7, 2005 - 9:51 AM PST  
another good example would be excerpts from Ken Burns' Baseball series. I haven't seen it in a long time. Does anyone recall which discs have the best bits about segregation and race?
post #14  on November 7, 2005 - 12:16 PM PST  
Another good example is the screenplay I'm working on now (for the Glass Shield director), which hasn't been produced into anything yet, and is on draft # seventy, so that won't help you. Yet. [g] In lieu of that, it's got some similarities to A Soldier's Story, which was already mentioned.

Nothing But a Man is a good depiction of the black experience, too.

Interesting that there have been a lot less films made about Latinos and Asians dealing with racism, but, certainly some.

Crash dealt with all of them.
post #15  on November 8, 2005 - 10:30 AM PST  
at the very top of the stationery screenwriters use for social conscience pictures is stamped


i think if you are working on a different movie this makes it very hard to concentrate. eventually you realize for no particular reason that nothing is as bad bad bad as slavery or the holocaust and you need to write about something important like that if you're going to make an important movie.

there are many other terrible things that we have done to each other. what makes these two the worst? military heroism solved these problems.
post #16  on November 8, 2005 - 10:31 AM PST  
problems that were dealt with through a slower, social process are sort of embarrassing...
post #17  on November 10, 2005 - 6:25 AM PST  
On a simular note, does anyone know if THAT'S BLACK ENTERTAINMENT is ever going to come out on DVD; as the title implies, it's like THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT except it focuses on black muscians. Since many of the films they appeared in were made by and for black audiences they weren't reducued to the sterotypical roles they had in mainstream films. I've heard it's excellent!
post #18  on November 10, 2005 - 7:04 AM PST  
> On November 8, 2005 - 10:30 AM PST dpowers wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> at the very top of the stationery screenwriters use for social conscience pictures is stamped
> there are many other terrible things that we have done to each other. what makes these two the worst? military heroism solved these problems.

Bush is hoping that it goes down in history thus...
It's always better to have 3 of something, and in the 2 previous instances the good guys (the Yanks) won.
post #19  on November 10, 2005 - 9:35 PM PST  
> On November 8, 2005 - 10:31 AM PST dpowers wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> problems that were dealt with through a slower, social process are sort of embarrassing...
> ---------------------------------

The only really good non documentary film about the civil rights movement was MALCOM X, (which was really a biopic). Too many of the others seem to be about noble white people helping the poor black people (like MISSISSPPI BURNING, and THE GHOSTS OF MISSISSIPPI.) Docs like THE EYES ON THE PRIZE and FREEDOM ON MY MIND do a better job.
post #20  on December 18, 2005 - 11:03 AM PST  
Hi. I'm teaching Cultural Diversity as an adjunct prof at my local community college. This spring we'll be watching Crash. I've never seen a more honest and poignant snapshot of contemporary race issues. You'll have to disect it yourself to find worthy scenes, but I'd be careful not to loose the complexity of the relationships. Good Luck.

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