The contexts this playlist covers are quite varied: from the United States of America where racialised legacies of stolen land, stolen labour, manifest in stolen futures; to South Africa whose history of some of the most extreme racialised classifications of humanity were legitimised by law; to colonial contexts such as India, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, where the marriage of law and racial construction produced personal and political material consequences which were also enforced by law and reverberate today. And finally, our context here in the UK where racial, colonial and legal histories produce stories such as the death of Steven Lawrence and the ensuing institutional failure in the investigation, as well as the horrors visited on the Windrush generation in the past and present. The personal is always political. Always. And so, the political must be personal to be political. Diverse stories make evident the persisting nostalgic fantasies and delusions that lie beneath the surface of our ‘normal’. They inspire us to change, to build a far better and kinder world than the one we were born into. Hopefully, they inspire us to build a better future world, where the earth is not destroyed, where we do not destroy each other.
Apartheid in South Africa
The World Against Apartheid: Have you Heard from Johannesburg?
Series exploring how a violent and racist government was destroyed by the concerted efforts of men and women working on multiple fronts inside and outside South Africa for more than three decades…
Political thriller about the true story of the secret talks that help end apartheid in South Africa. The individuals involved risked everything to achieve what was thought to be unimaginable: a delicate peace.
Drama set amidst the turmoil of 1930s South Africa. An English boy in an Afrikaaner boarding school battles against the racist society around him, and takes to boxing in an attempt to unite white and black.
Drama based on a true story. Patrick, a chemical factory worker in Apartheid South Africa, becomes an ANC activist after unfair treatment at the hands of the authorities. But the police are on his tail.
Drama set in South Africa before the end of apartheid, in which a white farmer and a black preacher from different worlds form a bond as a result of suffering and a tragedy that links two families. This is the third film version of Alan Paton’s modern classic novel.
Death Is Part of the Process
Drama, based on Hilda Bernstein’s book, depicting the struggles of white intellectuals and their Black activist friends in the apartheid of South Africa during the 1950s.
Drama based on the true story of Sandra Laing, a black woman who – due to a rare genetic irregularity – was born to white Afrikaner parents in 1950s South Africa and ostracised from white society.
Drama based on the novel by Gillian Slovo. A woman leaves her law career in New York to return to South Africa to assist an old friend as prosecutor on a Truth Commission hearing.
This highly acclaimed film – based on the Broadway musical, and filmed in Soweto – tells the story of the role played by children in forging the new South Africa.
You can read my essay on law and apartheid here
Colonial-Postcolonial Contexts: An ongoing structure
The celebrated blockbuster recounting the life of Mohandas K Gandhi, who started out as a lawyer and rose to become the leader of the Indian independence movement.
You can read my essay on Gandhi here
Drama following twin sisters Olanna and Kainene as their lives take very different courses after they are swept up in the turbulence of civil war in 1960s Nigeria. Based on the award-winning bestseller by Chimamanda Adichie.
Black Earth Rising
The story centres on Kate Ashby, who works as a legal investigator in the London law chambers of Michael Ennis. When Kate’s adoptive mother Eve takes on a case prosecuting an African militia leader, the story pulls Michael and Kate into a journey that will upend their lives forever.
Fact-based drama. A hotel manager battles to save desperate refugees during the 1994 Rwandan civil war that saw Hutu extremists systematically try and wipe out their Tutsi neighbours.
Political drama that mirrors the suffering caused to Africa by the West in the rocky marriage of a Malian bar singer and her unemployed husband. While their life unfolds, a court is set up in the courtyard of their home to try the World Bank and the IMF for their roles in keeping Africa poor.
Social comedy set in Senegal and filmed in the Oulof language. A rich, corrupt businessman marries for the third time in the cause of social advancement, only to discover that he has become impotent. As he desperately seeks a cure to reinstate his manhood, he finds his social prestige dwindling along with his sense of masculinity.
Welcome to Lagos
Three-part observational documentary series which explores life at the sharp end of one of the most extreme urban environments in the world: Lagos, Nigeria. Today, more than half the world’s population live in cities, and this eye-opening series shows what life is really like in some of the toughest parts of the world’s fastest growing megacity.
You can read my essay on Welcome to Lagos here
Romantic drama based on the true story of Seretse Khama, an African prince who fell in love with a white British woman to the disapproval of several governments in the late 1940s.
You can read my essay on Loving and A United Kingdom here
Race in the United States of America
Virginia’s law against mixed race marriage makes criminal exiles of Richard and Mildred Loving in 1958. The risky return to their rural roots comes as civil rights lawyers take up the couple’s case.
You can read my essay on Loving and A United Kingdom here
Epic biopic of one of America’s most influential political leaders. The film traces Malcolm’s life and the development of his philosophy, from a diﬃcult childhood in Harlem and Boston.
US drama. On a warm summer day in 1967 the protests against racial discrimination in the city of Detroit become violent, and several unsuspecting people are caught up in the mix.
The remarkable story of one man’s fight to abolish slavery in the British Empire. Ioan Gruffudd plays William Wilberforce, who at the age of 21 was elected to the House of Commons.
Compelling drama based on the true story of a regiment of black soldiers in the American Civil War. An inexperienced white oﬃcer leads the regiment in the fight against the Confederacy.
Enslaved with Samuel L Jackson
What happened to the 12 million Africans stolen from their homes? Piecing together the untold story of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, a global business that thrived for centuries. Samuel L Jackson traces his ancestry to Gabon, visiting the coastal area in Loango National Park to see where his enslaved ancestors were shipped in their millions to the Americas. Later, Samuel L Jackson is joined by journalists Afua Hirsch and Simcha Jacobovici, along with Diving with a Purpose (DWP) – a team of underwater investigators dedicated to restoring their ancestors’ lost…
Epic historical drama documenting a legal battle over a shipload of slaves who overpowered their captors at sea and landed on the shores of America.
In this documentary we hear archive of the renowned American writer James Baldwin in conversation with contemporary writers and activists. Exploring the reasons behind the resonance and resurgence of his work and analysis thirty years after his death.
Roots – 2016
Remake of the iconic 1976 US series, adapted from Alex Haley’s book, chronicling the saga of an African slave sold in America and of his descendants.
You can read my essay on Roots 2016 here
Race and Empire viewed from British shores
Documentary which tells the story of how West Indies cricket triumphed over its colonial masters through the achievements of one of the most gifted teams in sporting history.
Drama set in the late 18th century. Pioneering barrister William Garrow returns to the Old Bailey to champion the rights of prisoners against the power of the State. When 133 enslaved Africans are thrown off a slave ship after its water supply runs low, Garrow takes on the brutal slave trade that regards human beings as cargo when he is employed by Liverpool Assurance to prosecute the ship’s captain for a fraudulent claim of £4000 for loss of cargo. He is aided by anti-slavery campaigner Gustavus Vassa (Olaudah Equiano).
Krikler, Jeremy. “The Zong and the Lord Chief Justice.” In History Workshop Journal, vol. 64, no. 1, pp. 29-47. Oxford University Press, 2007.
This innovative performance by hip hop artist and writer Akala is an abridged version of his epic poem of the same name and is a personal interpretation of history as told through the ‘knowledge seeker.’
Andrea Levy’s award-winning story of Jamaicans and Londoners involved in the Second World War. The stories of Hortense, Queenie and Gilbert whose lives entwine in post Second World War London. Hortense begins her new life in England and soon learns it is not the golden land she hoped it would be.
Small Axe is a British anthology film series, created and directed by Steve McQueen. The anthology consists of five films which tell distinct stories about the lives of West Indian immigrants in London from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Mangrove tells the true story of Frank Crichlow, whose West Indian restaurant Mangrove, a lively community hub in London’s Notting Hill, attracted locals, activists, intellectuals and artists.
Lovers Rock tells a fictional story of young love at a blues party in 1980. The film is an ode to the romantic reggae genre called lovers rock, and to the black youth who found freedom and love in its sound.
After seeing his father assaulted by police oﬃcers, a young black man is driven to join the force, with hopes of changing racist attitudes from within. He soon finds himself facing both his father’s disapproval and racism in the ranks.
The true story of award-winning writer Alex Wheatle. Having spent his childhood in a mostly white institutional care home with no love or family, he finally finds a sense of community for the first time in in Brixton, where he develops a passion for music and DJing.
When 12-year-old Kingsley is transferred to a special-needs school, a group of West Indian women uncover an unoﬃcial segregation policy preventing many black children from receiving the education they are entitled to.
Director Steve McQueen’s 3-part documentary reconstructs the events surrounding a devastating fire leaves 13 Black teens dead – the protests, unrest and accusations of indifference.
In the early hours of 18 January 1981, in a house in south London, a birthday party ended in a fire. Thirteen young Black British people died. This film tells the stories of the young people who were at the party and the events that led up to it.
As news spread about the fire at 439 New Cross Road, the scale of the tragedy overwhelmed the local community. Amid uncertainty about whether the fire had been caused by a racist firebomb attack, anger mounted at the police investigation and the seeming indifference of the press and the government
A massive stop-and-search operation was launched, targeting black people on the streets of Brixton. In April, the situation boiled over and then flared up all over the country, from Southall to Toxteth, but by the year’s end, the people of New Cross were no closer to knowing who started the New Cross fire or why – and a lack of answers and justice has lingered over the case ever since.
Feature-length family drama revealing the joy, tragedy and hope behind the iconic story of Damilola Taylor, who died on the streets of London in 2000, aged ten.
Stephen: The Murder That Changed a Nation
Three-part documentary series examining the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
Dramatisation of Neville and Doreen Lawrence’s struggle to prove that their son was murdered by a gang of racists in 1993.
Black and British: A Forgotten History
Historian David Olusoga explores the enduring relationship between Britain and people whose origins lie in Africa.
The Birth of Empire: The East India Company
Dan Snow traces the rise and fall of the East India Company. By 1800, it had grown into a colossal trading empire. Yet scandal and corruption led to a curtailment of its powers by the British government.
My Family, Partition and Me: India 1947
Anita Rani presents a two-part documentary marking the 70th anniversary of the Partition of India, examining the stories of three British families, one Muslim, one Hindu and one British colonial.
Do check out my previous film list – The Law and Race Film Club as well as the lovely TWAILR Film Reel: ‘Films that resist’. You may also want to check out my Anti-racism reading list. Please let me know of any suggestions you have for any of these lists as well as those requested above.