Film Friday – “All my life I had to fight.”

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Film Fridays is a project initiated by Darren from over at The Arty Plantsman and me.

After doing a daily music challenge for a month last year we talked about doing something similar for movies.

And the current global lockdowns give us the perfect excuse to start!
Many of us are confined to home with only the TV for company so we thought we would start ‘Film Fridays’ so that we can talk about our favourite movies and hopefully give our readers some ideas for things to watch.
We would be delighted if you would join us!
Just tag your post with #FilmFriday and do a pingback to either Darren’s or my posts so that we can can have a look at yours! You can also copy the “Film Friday” poster I came up with.

We don’t necessarily want to talk about the nerdy technical details but more about why these films speak to us as individuals, why they have a place in our hearts, and any personal memories they evoke.

So please join us each friday when we will each be talking about a different movie from our list of favourites!

 

 

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Due to the current situation in the US, I’m not going to stick to my list of favorite films today but will write about African American films instead that have left a huge impression on me and helped open my eyes.

The first film that comes to my mind is „The Color Purple“ (1985) from which I borrowed the quote for this post’s title.

It is an American coming-of-age period drama film directed by Steven Spielberg, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel of the same name by Alice Walker.

The film stars Whoopi Goldberg (in her debut), Danny Glover, Desreta Jackson, Margaret Avery, Oprah Winfrey, Rae Dawn Chong, Willard Pugh and Adolph Caesar.

The film tells the story of a young African American girl named Celie Harris and shows the problems African American women faced during the early 20th century, including domestic violence, incest, pedophilia, poverty, racism, and sexism.

The film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, without winning any – which just shows that winning an award is completely overrated.

The film received positive reviews from critics, receiving praise for its acting, direction, screenplay, score, and production merits, but was criticized by some for being “over-sentimental” and „stereotypical”.

I admit that when I watched this film as a kid, it did neither feel over-sentimental nor stereotypical but simply like one of those films you’ll never forget because it was so very well made and with enormously stunning performances by the actors throughout.

 

 

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The next film is more recently made, „Hidden Figures“ (2016), a biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi and written by Melfi and Allison Schroeder.

It is loosely based on the 2016 non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly about black female mathematicians who worked at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during the Space Race.

The film stars Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury and other missions. The film also features Octavia Spencer as NASA supervisor and mathematician Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monáe as NASA engineer Mary Jackson, with Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Glen Powell, and Mahershala Ali in supporting roles.

There are certain scenes in this film – like the scene where Harrison smashes the Colored Ladies Room sign – that actually never happened in real life but that have quite an effect on the viewer.

And again there were positive and not so positive reviews that I’m not going to repeat here as it would burst this post’s word-count.

To me it was a fascinating story with superb performances throughout and highlighting a part of history that I didn’t know anything about before.

 

 

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Last but not least there’s the 2013 American historical drama film „The Butler“, directed and co-produced by Lee Daniels and with a screenplay by Danny Strong.

Loosely based on the real life of Eugene Allen, who worked in the White House for decades, the film stars Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, an African-American who is a witness of notable political and social events of the 20th century during his 34-year tenure serving as a White House butler.

In addition to Whitaker, the film’s all-star cast also features Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Alex Pettyfer, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, David Oyelowo, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Rickman, Liev Schreiber, Robin Williams, Minka Kelly, Mariah Carey, and Clarence Williams III.

Putting historical accuracy and critical response aside, to me this film is not only gut-wrenching and emotionally affecting but also raised the inner complexities and contradictions of the civil-rights landscape to my attention.

Forest Whitaker’s reflective, powerfully understated performance was outstanding and lauded as „the performance of his career“.

 

Have you seen any of these films? How was your response? And are there more films you’d like to add? Let me know all about it in your comments!

35 thoughts on “Film Friday – “All my life I had to fight.”

  1. My keyboard is broken and I will have to replace it. Many letters are not working so I will just say. I loved these films and agree it’s time for a change here. There is a section of our country that just can’t let go of the old ways. They are stuck in neanderthal thinking. It is fear speaking. Only love is the answer. We are all one entity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry for replying so late, Marlene! Hope your keyboard has been fixed by now?
      I couldn’t agree more – it’s neanderthal thinking indeed, and I hope that this time change will really take place. This violence and racism has to STOP! Love is all you need – and as you said, the only answer!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have seen the first two films: fantastic and memorable as you said. I still have to watch The Butler. And reading the comments it reminds me that I should watch again Guess who comes to dinner -Sidney Poitier is such an amazing actor. I loved him in A raisin in the Sun. Bravo Sarah, it’s a wonderful post you have written.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Dominique! So glad you’ve watched and enjoyed the first two films as well, and I think you will also love The Butler – but keep some tissues at the ready. 😉
      Have a fab weekend! ❤

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    • Thanks so much, Lisa! Yes, very heart breaking. 😦 I hope that people stay safe during the protests, both from violence and the virus. Big hug back! 💗🌻🌈

      Like

  3. I didn’t see the movie, but read the book The Color Purple and it was very good. The same with If Beale Street Could Talk…the book was excellent, so I was hesitant to see the movie, because I rarely like a movie once I have read the book. Still, I believe James Baldwin was one of America’s greatest writers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s the same for me Ann, I’m very hesitant to watch a movie if I have read the book first. Luckily I haven’t with all of these movies I’ve mentioned here, so I could simply lean back and enjoy watching them without worrying how close they kept it to the book. But I intend to read them now, and that way it’s sometimes better. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. A wonderful post, Sarah. I haven’t seen The Butler yet, but I loved The Color Purple and Hidden Figures. The protests in the US right now are a mess, but rising from the ashes is new hope, and more importantly, a commitment to unpacking our history of racism and really seeing how we can become better people, citizens, and neighbors. I worry about what will happen with the virus as a result of the crowds. Thanks for the reminders of some great movies and one to watch! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Diana! I think you’d enjoy The Butler, well as much as one can enjoy such films, but I think you know what I mean. The actors are brilliant and the story very moving and touching, and thought-provoking.
      There’s been a demonstration here yesterday to show solidarity with the protesters in the US. Sadly too many people way too close to each other and without wearing masks – no good conditions for preventing another outbreak. 😦
      Take care and stay safe! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The Color Purple is one of my favorite movies of all time. We are twinsies! Now, I’ve had plenty of movies that have made me cry, but The Color Purple makes me BAWL hard. You think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. I remember when I was watching it at a friend’s house and the ending was coming up and I knew that the waterworks were going to start in full force so I left the room so I couldn’t see the screen, but it didn’t matter I lost it and then I’d peek around the corner to see the screen and I was still crying so hard.

    Sarah, have you not seen Glory?! https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097441/

    “Robert Gould Shaw leads the U.S. Civil War’s first all-black volunteer company, fighting prejudices from both his own Union Army, and the Confederates.” OMG.OMG.OMG. Watch it now. Denzel (purrrrr) giving such a performance. Stop reading this. Watch it. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hehe! I have seen “Glory”! 😉 Of course I have – I mean: Denzel Washington, right? 😉 (purrrr)
      OMG! I’m also crying so hard when watching The Color Purple, well, all kinds of touching movies really. It’s quite a scary sight I’ve been told which is why I always try to watch lighter films with friends because, you know, you don’t want them to have to comfort you while they should be busy crying themselves, eh, watching the movie that is. 😀
      Ha! I tried the go away and don’t look at the screen as well, but with Titanic. 😉 Didn’t work either! LOL!
      If there’s a drought somewhere we both should meet up and watch a film together. 😉 Okay, salty tears, but I’m sure we can figure out how to extract the salt after that. 😉 xo

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  6. I studied the novel The Color Purple in grad school. I think the movie version was a bit sentimentalized but not enough to detract from its overall effectiveness. I’ve been meaning to see The Butler. I’ll need to make a point of looking for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a beautiful idea for a very timely post Sarah.

    I saw The Colour Purple in my first few weeks of enrolling in Film Studies, and remember writing a very detailed analysis of it at the time. Now, what I remember most are the opening scene, the recurring letterbox motif and Oprah Winfrey’s amazing performance. I should watch it again. I haven’t seen either of the other two movies (now added to my list), but would add The Help, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and the Australian films Rabbitproof Fence and The Sapphires.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Su! I’ve watched all the films you’ve mentioned here and loved them!! I even have a CD with the soundtrack of The Sapphires. 😉 The Help I saw recently and was crying so hard – and laughing too! I think films that provoke both reactions from their audience are the best. Rabbitproof Fence broke my heart, and I’ve watched Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner numerous times together with my mum when I was a kid. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m so glad you’ve seen The Sapphires. It’s one of those feel-good films I can come back to again and again, but I thought being an Aussie film, it mightn’t have had a wide release.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This is a wonderful idea, Sarah, to promote films featuring Black actors in situations that point out their struggle to be recognized for their humanity, their intelligence, their gifts.

    I read The Color Purple (twice, in a row) and Hidden Figures before seeing the movies and strongly recommend the books to anyone who’s only seen the films. In both cases, the stories are much more nuanced, complex, and extraordinary than what a two-hour film can suggest.

    A few other films that had deep impact on me; I’ve put an RB next to those if I’ve also read the book :

    Imitation of Life: I think this is the first movie I ever saw (on TV, when I was young) that depicted a Black woman who chose to pass as white, lived a wonderful life that ignored her race and estranged her from her family, until her heritage caught up with her. It’s likely very dated but it was made in the 1930s when everything got a coat of neon gloss or an extra layer of melodrama. (Not like that doesn’t happen today.)

    A Raisin in the Sun: Another film I saw on TV, pointing out the challenge Black families face in trying to be true to their inner drive to become what they yearn to be, but must also face the social realities of a country that wants to limit their opportunities. The drama focuses almost entirely on one family in the confines of their small apartment, something that echoes the limits imposed on their lives by a system meant to suppress them.

    Guess Who’s Come to Dinner: Starring Sydney Poitier, Spencer Tracy, and Katherine Hepburn, portrays a beautiful young white woman who becomes engaged to a brilliant Black surgeon, and invites him to her family’s home for dinner to meet her wealthy family. The drama is a bit overdone, and you can’t watch without being uncomfortably aware of the Black servant. But it was produced when interracial marriage was still illegal in many states.

    Sounder RB This is a story of a poor rural family facing discrimination and legal woes in the Deep South during the Depression. Sounder is actually the name of the family’s loyal dog who plays a much bigger role in the book than in the movie. Both point out the discrepancy in equality and opportunity for Black citizens.

    Mudbound RB: Racism at its ugliest rears in the American South, where racism is still stoked daily. Two young families, one white, one Black, struggle to build a home out of the muddy ground where they each stake their claim. Becoming friends, everyone faces unfathomable consequences. Except that being deep in the South, everyone should have seen it coming.

    I’ve already overrun your blog with my comments, but the civil injustice in this country appalls me and sears my heart as it has all my life. When I was in 4th grade, shortly after seeing Imitation of Life on the Million Dollar Movie, I wrote a short story about a black family whose well has run dry. They beg a white family for a bucket of water. It was the absolute height of melodrama and stereotypes, but it was the seminal moment that I became a writer and an advocate, sometimes an agitator, for justice and equality.

    If this is too long, of course, delete from your blog. Thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

    • First: thank you so much for your wonderful and informative comment, Shari! Second: I never delete a comment unless it’s Spam, obviously from a troll or if the commenter asks me to – I really hope you won’t ask me to!
      I had to look up the films you’ve mentioned here because English and German titles can sometimes differ. So, I’ve seen Imitation of life but in the version with Lana Turner, I’ll have to make a point of watching the earlier version too because I just read that they differ somewhat.

      I’ve also seen Guess Who Comes to Dinner numerous times with my mum when I was a kid – she had a crush on Sidney Poitier, and who could blame her. 😉

      The others I still have to watch and I thank you for pointing them out, I’ll put them on my.list of must-sees.

      And you’re absolutely right, most of the time it’s recommendable to also read the book. I haven’t read the books of the films I’ve mentioned here myself yet but want to.

      And finally I’m honoured that you shared with me the story of the beginning of your writer’s career. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. “The Color Purple” impacted my life when it was featured in the country of my birth, at the time under an authoritarian regime. Such strong black women!
    “Hidden Figures” was a revelation of the suppression of the black woman’s contribution to one of America’s greatest accomplishments. I rejoice that their stories have been brought into the light.
    I haven’t seen “The Butler.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can only imagine the powerful effect watching The Color Purple had on you under those circumstances, Rosaliene. And I rejoiced as well that the stories of the women working for NASA has been brought to light!

      Liked by 1 person

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