February is Black History Month which means there’s no time like now to watch extraordinary film and television that honors black creatives and preserves black narratives and culture. To celebrate, Hulu just released a new collection, Black Stories. Comprised of hundreds of titles, Black Stories features unique artists, histories, and stories across all genres. I’ve rounded up a list of the collection’s best five titles you need to watch ASAP.
1. Sorry to Bother You (2018)
In his directorial debut, Boots Riley gives us the critically acclaimed Sorry to Bother You. Set in an alternate version of Oakland, California, the film follows Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a young telemarketer who uses his “white voice” to rise through the ranks at work. He is soon faced with a truly testing choice—either sell out at humanity’s expense or join his feminist girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), and activist buddies to fight the man. This dark comedy uses absurdist satire and the biggest 'WTF' plot twist of 2018 to criticize capitalism, white privilege, and race and class relations in modern America. Sorry to Bother You is original, unexpected, and expertly weaves bizarre humor and sociopolitical commentary together to effectively highlight the insanity of our current world.
2. The Boondocks
In 2005, author and illustrator Aaron McGruder turned his comic strip The Boondocks into an animated TV series on Adult Swim. It centers on the lives of brothers Huey and Riley Freeman and their grandfather Robert as they move into the fictional, white suburban neighborhood of Woodcrest. Huey (Regina King) is a ten–year old genius who often voices his support for social justice and left–wing politics. Much to the dismay of their former–activist grandfather (John Witherspoon), he’s constantly getting involved in misadventures with his younger brother Riley (also Regina King), who’s artsy and obsessed with gangster rap and hip–hop culture. The Boondocks is unique in that it combines stunning animation with satire and juvenile humor to offer a novel, young black perspective on topics ranging from American politics to pop culture. But if you don’t have time to comb through all four seasons, at least check out Season 3, Episode 7—“The Fund–Raiser.”
3. The Book of Negroes
Based on the book of the same name by Lawrence Hill, whose title derives from a British historical document, this six–episode miniseries follows the fictional life of Aminata Diallo (Aunjanue Ellis), a young girl abducted from her home in West Africa at age 11 and sold as a slave in the 13 colonies during the time of the American Revolution. She is forced to navigate the inhumane and torturous world of enslavement, but with undying resilience and help from rising abolitionist movements, Aminata and 1,200 other former slaves are able to make passage back to their homelands. Through the fictional events of Aminata’s life, The Book of Negroes shows the real harrowing stories of African people and their fight for freedom. It depicts a snippet of the long and painful history of slavery that demands attention and remembrance.
4. Kiki (2016)
Brought to us by Kiki member Twiggy Pucci Garçon, and Swedish filmmaker Sara Jordenö, this 2016 documentary follows the lives of New York City–based LGBTQ youth of color in the Kiki Scene—a new–wave version of a performance–based art form known as Ballroom. Kiki Scene members belong to different teams, affectionately referred to as “houses,” and practice endlessly to compete in what are known as Kiki balls. Kiki offers an inside look at the energetic and fabulous world of the Kiki Scene while highlighting the members’ own unique experiences with political activism, homelessness, HIV, and gender expression. This Black History Month, watch Kiki and be reminded of the powerful and fierce narratives of youth of color that cannot and will not be silenced.
5. Fences (2016)
Fences, set in 1950’s Pittsburg and based off of a play of the same name, showcases the life of Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington), a garbage collector fixated on working and providing for his family. His wife, Rose (Viola Davis) wants their son Cory (Jovan Adepo) to follow his dreams and play collegiate football, while Troy—a talented baseball player kept out of the Major Leagues due to his race—forbids the notion, encouraging instead a life of work and security. The award–winning film follows the complex lives of the Maxson family, a working–class black family in the '50s, and what the definition of living, as opposed to surviving, means to each of them. Both Washington and Davis deliver incredibly compelling performances that call attention to themes of masculinity, infidelity, and individuality.
So, if you’re wondering how you can celebrate Black History Month this year, head over to Hulu and take your pick of any one of these remarkable films and television shows.