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  • Khalil Zeigler

6 Movies about Black labor. (That aren't "The Help")


In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, The Help was one of the highest watched movies on Netflix. Of course, if you can't see that as problematic, I'm sorry I'm not here to talk about that. (But if you haven't watched The Help, WHY ARE YOU HERE??? WATCH The Help! Shouts out to Viola Davis. You the best).


Anyway, Labor Day weekend just passed and got me thinking about black labor. About how the civil rights movement was about more than where to sit on a bus or water fountains, but also the safety of black laborers. (For the records, this was not something they taught me in high school, but I'll complain about the urban public education system another day).


After thinking it over, I wanted to share some of my favorite movies about black labor. These probably aren't "hidden gems", but thought it would be fun to talk them.


Fences:

I know what you thinking before reading "Lord, do I love Viola Davis! I need to see what else she was in!" Not only do you get more of Ms. Davis but also the equally fantastic Denzel Washington. And to be honest, they are really just the sprinkles on this fantastic film adaption of the groundbreaking August Wilson's play.


Fences follows Troy Maxson (Washington), his wife, Rose (Davis), and their son, Cory. Being a garbage collector in the '50s, Troy deals with the racist policies of his job and being the first black man to be promoted to a truck driver in Pittsburgh. There is so much more to this movie and it is wonderfully acted. I cannot recommend this enough.


Little:


This one was a Sabira recommendation. I remember the day she tried to tell me about this movie, she couldn't stop laughing. Regina Hall, Issa Rae, and the young Marsai Martin. That's a winning comedy team. Martin became the youngest producer in Hollywood with this title, and that's amazing on itself.


Businesswoman Jordan Sanders (Hall) wakes up one morning in a younger body (Martin). With the help of her assistant (Rae), she has to juggle school and running a company from afar.





Sorry to Bother You:


Okay, before you watch this one, it's weird. Real weird. But if you are looking for a dystopian movie about how the even illusion of "whiteness" can affect a career of people of color, this is for you.


Sorry to Bother You is about Cash Green (Lakieth Stanfield), who gets a new sales job that he isn't great at. That is until he finds his "white voice (David Cross)". Hilarity and insanity ensue, all while commenting on what it takes to succeed in the workforce and who benefits from workers' labor. It has some of the wild moments and the end will shock you if don't know what's coming, but it's all a great ride.


Hidden Figures:


Does this movie even need an introduction? (I'm going to talk about it anyway.) You want a better example of black people killing it in the workplace you'd be hard-pressed to find it.


Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae as the historic Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson working at NASA battling racism and sexism while making sure the space program is successful.


Uncorked:


Black labor doesn't mean just working for faceless companies. I'm talking about black businesses, too. Elijah (Mamoudou Athie), wants to be a sommelier, but his parents want him to help at the bbq restaurant. The movie deals with him balancing his family obligations and his dreams.


Uncorked is a movie about a black man challenging what is expected of him. At almost every scene (if not every scene) with his sommelier training, he is one of the only (if not the only) black man there. This doesn't deter him, nor does his family question it. Being a sommelier is his dream and he follows it.



Support the Girls:


This movie had me crying. I thought it was going be Waiting with Regina Hall at the lead, being she was in pretty much all those screwball comedies in the earlier 2000s. Working in food service can be a nightmare, managing can be even worse. Even worse that is being a black woman managing a restaurant with racist policies.


Regina Hall was the leads Support the Girls as Lisa, the manager of a sports bar on her last day working there. On her last day, she tries to makes sure all the marginalized people are going to do well after she leaves. It's funny, but it will tug on your heartstrings.

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