Cineplex is offering Canadians a whole bunch of movies that speak to the black experience for free this month – check here for a complete list – and this is one of them, as it should be. I hadn’t seen it since it was released in theatres and Sean hadn’t seen it at all.
It’s been 7 years since this movie came out, but I still remember how deeply it had moved me, saddened me, enraged me, which is why a part of me wasn’t super keen to revisit it. And another part of me was disgusted by that part’s response: the suffering and inherent iniquity of my fellow human beings makes me uncomfortable because IT SHOULD. My ancestors helped create this mess, my privilege benefits from it, and my inaction maintains it.
Oscar Grant III was just 22 years old when he was shot by a white cop while lying face down on the ground. It’s been nearly 12 years since his death signaled a significant problem in policing, and nearly 12 years since we’ve continued to allow our darker skinned friends to die for their melanin. The problem has of course existed as long as policing has; American law enforcement was built in the wake of slavery as a new way to round up black bodies and extort free labour from them, but only in this century has the presence of cellphones allowed these shootings to be captured on film. Grant’s name joins a long list of black men and women murdered by police.
Fruitvale Station is the first feature length film by director Ryan Coogler and his first collaboration with Michael B. Jordan – but not his last. His next film, Creed, gives Rocky fans (and Rocky himself) a strong black protagonist to root for, an extension of Apollo Creed’s (Carl Weathers) legacy, but also a modern American hero for a new audience to look up to. Coogler’s next film takes that premise to an even greater height with Marvel’s first black super hero movie, Black Panther. Through Wakanda, Coogler explores themes of responsibility and identity. He casts Jordan as Killmonger, the fearsome but ultimately sympathetic villain. He helps T’Challa realize that Wakanda’s relative strength and power means they owe something to their neighbours in need, a message that seems not to permeate stubborn white audiences.
Cineplex and other streaming services are also offering another Michael B. Jordan super hero movie for fee this month: Just Mercy. Bryan Stevenson is a real-life African American lawyer who helps wrongfully convicted death row prisoners. Just Mercy is further proof that Michael B. Jordan is himself a black idol, and a major, bankable Hollywood star, living up to his name’s GOAT status.