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  • “The Whiteness Project.” (PBS, 2015) Producer/Director: Whitney Dow. This interactive documentary features interviews with people in Buffalo, NY reflecting on what it means to be “white.”
  • “The Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.” (Firelight, 2015). Director: Stanley Nelson. This documentary tells the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party, one of the 20th century’s most alluring and controversial organizations that captivated the world’s attention for nearly 50 years.
  • “The Undocumented.” (PBS, 2013). Director: Marco Williams. In the past 15 years, more than 2,000 dead migrants have been found in the vast borderlands between Sonora, Mexico and Tucson, Arizona. The film tells the story of border crossers who perished while trying to cross an unforgiving desert in search of a better life, and follows them on their long journey home.
  • “Reel Injun: Native Americans Portrayal in Hollywood.” (PBS, 2011). Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond looks at how the myth of “the Injun” has influenced the world’s understanding – and misunderstanding – of Natives.
  • “Wo Ai Ni (I Love You Mommy).” (PBS, 2010). Director: Stephanie Wang-Breal. This film tells the story of Fang Sui Yong, an 8-year-old orphan, and the Sadowskys, the Long Island Jewish family that travels to China to adopt her. Sui Yong is one of 70,000 Chinese children now being raised in the United States.
  • “Herskovitz at the Heart of Blackness.” (California Newsreel, 2009).  Producers: Llewellyn Smith, Vincent Brown and Christine Herbes-Sommers. This quick-paced, carefully researched documentary traces Herskovits’ development as a scholar to the shared African American and Jewish experiences of exile, exclusion and political oppression.
  • “Unnatural Causes.” (PBS, 2008).  Directed by Larry Adelman, this series offers an overview of the ways that racial and economic inequality are not abstract concepts but hospitalize and kill even more people each year than cigarettes.  The segment on the impact of racism on African American infant mortality is particularly compeling.  The series has a total running time of four hours, but this is divided into seven classroom-friendly segments of 56 minutes (1) and 30 minutes (6).   (DVD available for purchase by educators only.)
  • “What Makes Me White?” (2008) Directed by A.M. Sands.
  • “Brick by Brick: A Civil Rights Story.” (California Newsreel, 2008).  Producer/director Bill Kavanah tracks the landmark case, U.S. vs Yonkers, which challenged housing and educational discrimination in the North and pushed for desegregation.
  • “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North.” (California Newsreel, 2008).  Filmmaker Katrina Browne discovers that her New England ancestors were the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. She and nine cousins retrace the Triangle Trade and gain a powerful new perspective on the black/white divide. (Originally aired in 2008 onP.O.V., PBS).
  • “Tulia, Texas.” (California Newsreel, 2008). Though its scrupulous investigation of a landmark case, this documentary uncovers the deep-rooted assumptions about race and crime that still permeate our society and undermines our justice system.
  • “Resolved.” (One Potato Productions, 2007).   This film, by writer/director Greg Whiteley, starts out as a story about high school debate, and becomes a much more interesting story about the relationship between race, identity, and knowledge.   (Aired onHBO, 2007; Educational-version of the DVD available for purchase here.)
  • “All White in Barking.” (Icarus Films, 2007).  Filmmaker Marc Isaacs profiles a working-class white community east of London. The racial composition of Barking is changing as more immigrants from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Balkans arrive and many longtime white residents leave.  Through engaging interviews, the film offers a compelling snapshot of an increasingly multicultural Britain.
  • “A Dream in Doubt.” (Independent Lens, PBS, 2007). Director Producer Tami R. Yaeger examines the post-9/11 hate-motivated murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi, in Mesa, Arizona. She tells the story through the eyes of his brother, Rana Singh Sodhi, and follows his journey to reclaim his American dream and fight the hate that continues to threaten his community.
  • “Banished: How Whites Drove Blacks Out of Town in America.” (Independent Lens, PBS, 2007). A look at three U.S. cities, which were part of many communities that violently forced African American families to flee in post-reconstruction America.
  • “Race to Execution.” (Active Voice, 2007). Explores the deep and disturbing link between race and the death penalty in America. (More information at PBS.)
  • “Slanted Screen.” (AAMM  Productions, 2006).  Writer director Jeff Adachi explores the portrayal of Asian men in Hollywood films.
  • “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Villifies a People.” (MEF, 2006) Directed by Sut Jhally.
  • “Corridor of Shame.” (Ferillo & Associates, 2006).  Producer director Bud Ferillo tells a moving story about the school children of South Carolina who, fifty years after Brown v. the Board of Education decision, still exist in an educational system that is separate from whites and inherently unequal.
  • “HIP-HOP: Beyond Beats & Rhymes.” (PBS, Independent Lens, 2006). Byron Hurt’s “loving critique” of misogyny and homophobia in hip-hop; useful for illustrating the racism of the 70% white audience for hip-hop music. More available here.
  • “When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.” (HBO Documentary, 2006). Spike Lee’s take on the disaster in New Orleans. See also the curriculum developed to go with this film, available here.
  • “What’s Race Got to Do With It?” (California Newsreel, 2006).  Directed by Frances Reid. Reid follows up on her earlier film, “Skin Deep,” with this documentary about an optional class dealing with race at Berkley in a post-affirmative action world.
  • “The Trials of Darryl Hunt.” (Break-Thru Films, 2005).  This documentary follows 10 years of the 20 year saga of Darryl Hunt, a black man wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of a white woman, in North Carolina, 1984.  This films offers a provocative and haunting examination of a community – and a criminal justice system – subject to racial bias and tainted by fear.
  • “Farmingville.” (PBS, 2004). Directed by Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini. This film explores the shocking hate-based attempted murders of two Mexican day laborers and the small Long Island town that is catapulted into national headlines, unmasking a new front line in the border wars: suburbia.
  • “Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed.” (PBS, 2004). Directed by Shola Lynch.  n 1968, Shirley Chisholm becomes the first black woman elected to Congress. In 1972, she becomes the first black woman to run for president. Shunned by the political establishment, she’s supported by a motley crew of blacks, feminists, and young voters.
  • “The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow.” (California Newsreel, 2003). Four-part series offers an extensive look at racial oppression in the U.S. between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement.
  • “Race: The Power of an Illusion.” (California Newsreel, 2003).  A three-part series, acclaimed by former ASA President Troy Duster as, “By far the best documentary series on race in the last decade.”
  • “Daughter from Danang.” (PBS, 2002). In 1975, as the Vietnam War was ending, thousands of orphans and Amerasian children were brought to the United States as part of Operation Babylift. “Daughter from Danang” tells the dramatic story of one of these children, Heidi Bub (a.k.a. Mai Thi Hiep), and her Vietnamese mother, Mai Thi Kim, separated at the war’s end and reunited 22 years later.
  • “Two Towns of Jasper.” (DER, 2002). This remarkable film production featured segregated production crews — one black and one white — each filming the white and black communities of Jasper, Texas, the site of one of the most notorious racially-motivated murders in recent memory. (More information here and AmDoc.)
  • “Murder on a Sunday Morning.” (Docurama, 2001). Directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, this documentary offers a candid look at the U.S. justice system at work and exposes the racial bias and abuse of power through telling the story of Brenton Butler, a 15-year-old African American boy arrested and charged with murder. The film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2001.
  • “Considering Reparations: Paying the Debt for Slavery” (Newshour, PBS, 2000,available through FHS). Explores the subject of reparations, including discussion of horrors of slavery, post-traumatic slavery syndrome, and forms of reparations.
  • “Nuyorican Dream.” (Big Mouth Films, 2000). Directed by Laurie Collyer. Chronicles the struggles and aspirations of a New York Puerto Rican family as they contend with the devastating effects of urban poverty. The film follows Robert Torres, Marta’s eldest son and the only one of his family to finish high school and college. College was supposed to lead to the American Dream, but the experience of transcending class has had the result of alienating Robert from his family.
  • “In Whose Honor?” (Newday Films, 1997). Directed by Jay Rosenstein.  Offers a critical look at the long-running practice of “honoring” American Indians as mascots and nicknames in sports.
  • “Black is, Black Ain’t” (California Newsreel, 1995).  Directed by Marlon Riggs.  The final film by this director examines diversity within the Black community and questions the notion of an essential Black identity.
  • Skin Deep” (California Newsreel, 1995).  Directed by Frances Reid. Academy Award nominated filmmaker Frances Reid follows students from different colleges and universities to a challenging racial awareness then follows them back to their campuses.
  • “Malcolm X: Make It Plain.” (PBS, WGBH, 1994). Resonates today, and it is both powerful and poignant to see archival footage of Malcolm. Perhaps most moving are the scenes that capture his sense of humor, and the filmmakers, Orlando Bagwell and Steve Fayer, deftly use this to frame the piece.
  • “Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years.” (PBS, WGBH, 1993). Groundbreaking, award-winning series on America’s Civil Rights movement, 1954-1985.
  • “Teaching Indians to be White” (Films for the Humanities & Sciences, 1993). Cultural annihilation of Native American culture by whites.
  • “Against the Odds.” (PBS, 1993). Directed by Amber Edwards. Chronicles the Harlem Renaissance.
  • “Color Adjustment.” (California Newsreel, 1991).  Directed by Marlon Riggs.  Another award-winning film from the same director of “Ethnic Notions,” this film traces the development of stereotypes through 40 years of prime time television.
  • “True Colors.” (ABC, PrimeTime Live, 1991). Diane Sawyer and news crew stage what is basically a “matched study” experiment by pairing John, who is white, and Glen, who is black, and follow them with a series of hidden cameras as they expose racism in a variety of settings. Although dated (early 1991) and very short (just 19 minutes), if I could only show one film to a class about race in the U.S., I would choose this one. Available for purchase here.
  • “Who Killed Vincent Chin?” (Filmmakers Library, 1988). Academy-award winning documentary about the bludgeoning death of Chinese-American Vincent Chin amid anti-Asian bigotry in Detroit.
  • “Ethnic Notions” (California Newsreel, 1987). Directed by Marlon Riggs. Emmy award-winning documentary analyzes the deep-rooted stereotypes which have shaped the evolution of racial consciousness in America.
  • “A Class Divided” (Frontline, PBS, 1985). Film about Jane Elliot, Iowa schoolteacher who developed the “blue eyes” “brown eyes” classroom experiment.
  • “The Lemon Grove Incident.” (Espinosa Productions, 1985). Directed by Frank Christopher.  This documentary chronicles one of the earliest school desegregation cases in which the Mexican American community in Lemon Grove, California, to a 1930 school board attempt to create a segregated school for the Mexican American children.