The Best Anti Racist Films

by educatedindio | created - 16 Dec 2012 | updated - 17 Dec 2012 | Public
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1. Smoke Signals (1998)

PG-13 | 89 min | Comedy, Drama

76 Metascore

Young Indian man Thomas is a nerd in his reservation, wearing oversize glasses and telling everyone stories no-one wants to hear. His parents died in a fire in 1976, and Thomas was saved by... See full summary »

Director: Chris Eyre | Stars: Adam Beach, Evan Adams, Irene Bedard, Gary Farmer

Votes: 9,000 | Gross: $6.72M

By Coeur Dalene Indian author Sherman Alexie, the film is THE FIRST EVER movie about Indians made by Indians, after a century of Hollywood distortions.

How many ways does this film tear apart stereotypes?

It takes place in recent times, not the old west. The characters all actually are Indians, not whites playing Indian. (Twilight films and Billy Jack, I'm talking about you.) The characters are not from a Plains tribe for a change. The film is one of the first to show Indians with a sense of humor. The film depicts Indians dealing with day to day issues like racist whites, alcoholism, and broken families, and yet avoids being preachy. The film doesn't depict Indians as violent, stoic, lost, or fated to disappear, for a change. The film actually shows Indians calling themselves Indians, instead of that awkward govt term, "Native American", so beloved by paternalistic white liberals.

Show this to anyone who imagines Indians aren't around anymore. Even a hardcore racist will have a hard time from laughing and starting to question their misperceptions.

2. Salt of the Earth (1954)

Not Rated | 94 min | Drama, History

Mexican workers at a Zinc mine call a general strike. It is only through the solidarity of the workers, and importantly the indomitable resolve of their wives, mothers and daughters, that they eventually triumph.

Director: Herbert J. Biberman | Stars: Juan Chacón, Rosaura Revueltas, Will Geer, David Wolfe

Votes: 2,597

An incredibly brave landmark film, decades ahead of its time. Made during the height of the McCarthyism era, this film dared to be antiracist, antisexist, pro union, unabashedly pro immigrant, and defiantly unafraid.

Back when roles for Mexicans were limited to maids, criminals, and beaten down peasants (disturbing how little has changed), Salt of the Earth had as its main characters a Mexican woman and her husband, hard working, dignified, poor but proud and unbroken, and not the slightest bit submissive. The film is not afraid to take on issues like brutal working conditions, the ignorance even of some well meaning whites, and a devasting self critique of sexism among Latinos.

Every Latino and everyone living in an area with many Latinos should see this.

3. Watermelon Man (1970)

R | 100 min | Comedy, Drama

An extremely bigoted white man finds out the hard (and somewhat humorous) way what it's like being a black man, firsthand!

Director: Melvin Van Peebles | Stars: Godfrey Cambridge, Estelle Parsons, Howard Caine, D'Urville Martin

Votes: 1,428 | Gross: $1.50M

Several decades before Spike Lee, this film had a daring walk-a-mile-in-my-shoes premise. A casually bigoted white man wakes up one morning to find out he's turned into a Black man. Now he has to find out first hand what life is like for Black Americans.

It may sound preachy, but honestly it's not at all. It's actually enormously funny, a devastating satire. The brilliant touch was to make the main character casually bigoted, but not a vicious angry racist.

Now he has to deal with police harassment, stores and bystanders assuming he's a criminal, white women who believe the sexual stereotypes, and a wife who finds out she's not as openminded as she claimed to be.

An eye opener, and in need of a remake.

4. The Defiant Ones (1958)

Approved | 96 min | Crime, Drama

Two escaped convicts chained together, white and black, must learn to get along in order to elude capture.

Director: Stanley Kramer | Stars: Tony Curtis, Sidney Poitier, Theodore Bikel, Charles McGraw

Votes: 11,455

At a time when lynchings were still disturbingly common, and beatings of civil rights demonstrators were on the news every night, this film came on with a strong message of we are all in this together.

A Black and white convict are chained together, despising each other but forced to cooperate to try and escape. The two face a lynching, and one actually sells out the other. Later he will face a choice, does he turn down a chance for escape to help the other.

5. Do the Right Thing (1989)

R | 120 min | Comedy, Drama

91 Metascore

On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone's hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence.

Director: Spike Lee | Stars: Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson

Votes: 72,173 | Gross: $27.55M

Spike Lee's best film, and his message when he was at the top of his game, made in response to the racist murders at Howard Beach.

A typical day in the life of a multiracial neighborhood, when a series of misunderstandings lead to tragedy. It's a call for tolerance, and has some of the bravest dialog in any film, with characters giving voice to their prejudice, laid bare and exposed for what it is.

This it the film that Crash wish it could have been, before it wimped out and instead went with a cheap lazy message of letting racists off the hook.

6. La Haine (1995)

Not Rated | 98 min | Crime, Drama

24 hours in the lives of three young men in the French suburbs the day after a violent riot.

Director: Mathieu Kassovitz | Stars: Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé, Saïd Taghmaoui, Abdel Ahmed Ghili

Votes: 129,175 | Gross: $0.31M

In English, "Hate." It's a French film, but don't let either your anti French prejudice or reverse snobbery keep you from seeing it. Remember that hostility to the French is one more form of bigotry, usually promoted by right wingers angry that the French turned out to be right about the Iraq War.

Hate follows three young immigrants in Paris, one Jewish, one Arab, and one African. We see a Europe we don't often see, that of the new immigrants facing even more bigotry than immigrants face in the US, hostility from the media, police, and people on the street.

A meditation on violence and the aimlessness of youth, well worth your time.

7. American Indian Comedy Slam: Goin Native No Reservations Needed (2010 TV Special)

PG-13 | 79 min | Comedy

In the spirit of the Kings of Comedy and The Latin Kings of Comedy, no reservations needed for this historical stand-up comedy event. Hosted by legendary Native American comedian Charlie ... See full summary »

Director: Scott L. Montoya | Stars: Vaughn Eaglebear, Larry Omaha, Charlie Hill, Howie Miller

Votes: 26

Yes, there is such a thing as Native comedy. That people (outside of Indians themselves) would be surprised at that shows how far we have to go.

American Indian comedy goes all the way back to humor being used in oral traditions. Cherokee comedian Will Rogers was bigger in his day than Seinfeld was in his heyday. And like Jews, Indians use humor to cope with tragedy.

Legendary comedian Charlies Hill, the first modern Native stand up, hosts this. With half a dozen hilarious Native comedians, prepare to laugh your tail off and find yourself surprised at how much you like Indian humor.

8. Three Kings (1999)

R | 114 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

82 Metascore

In the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, four soldiers set out to steal gold that was stolen from Kuwait, but they discover people who desperately need their help.

Director: David O. Russell | Stars: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze

Votes: 150,963 | Gross: $60.65M

The badly needed antidote to racist garbage like True Lies or the many Chuck Norris anti-Arab films. Three Kings gives a sympathetic view of Iraqi people, wrapped up in a heist story during wartime.

9. Heaven & Earth (1993)

R | 140 min | Action, Biography, Drama

During the Vietnam War, a Vietnamese woman struggles hustling on the streets, where she comes face to face with those involved in the conflict around her.

Director: Oliver Stone | Stars: Hiep Thi Le, Tommy Lee Jones, Haing S. Ngor, Bussaro Sanruck

Votes: 12,150 | Gross: $5.86M

A badly needed perspective, the US-Vietnam War from the POV of someone Vietnamese. Too often Americans think of Vietnam as the name of a war, not a country or people. (In Vietnam, they call the war the American War.)

So often Hollywood has only showed Asians in martial arts, as sex kittens, or not shown they voices at all.

10. Schindler's List (1993)

R | 195 min | Biography, Drama, History

93 Metascore

In German-occupied Poland during World War II, Oskar Schindler gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazi Germans.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Caroline Goodall

Votes: 1,056,691 | Gross: $96.07M

A really obvious choice, but nonetheless true and important.

Spielberg does have a disturbing habit of always choosing to tell a story from the POV of a white gentile, even when the story's not about them. Not just this film, but also Amistad and Bury My Heart.

That misgiving aside, the film does show Holocaust survivors and their experience, and by giving us a story of hope avoid wallowing in aimless pity as so many other Holocaust stories do.

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