Today marks the start of Black History Month 2020, a month committed to highlighting the influence of the Black British community in the UK. In the midst of racism and black trauma, BHM reminds us that it’s just as important to celebrate the beauty and creativity of the Black community.
This year we’ve seen the power of storytelling in shows like Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You, and true innovation as shown by the No Signal radio team. Now is the time to amplify Black British stories and Netflix is doing just that. To commemorate the month, they’ve released a number of classic and contemporary TV shows and films that perfectly encapsulate the essence of Black Britain. Stories of Black sisterhood, about the African-Caribbean diaspora and Black family life are all available for all who want to learn more and celebrate “Black British voices behind and in front of the screen, characters old and new”.
Here’s a list of our top picks to look out for:
A gem from the late 80s and 90s, Desmond’s is a hilarious, realistic portrayal of life for Black immigrants who struggle between longing to return home while raising children and making a living in the UK.
Set in a barbershop in Peckham, the show’s characters provided a funny, familial feel that any person, regardless of race could relate to. Desmond, the owner of the barbershop, and his wife Shirley were a typical couple: a stubborn old man, with his wife as the voice of reason. His best friend Porkpie was a comic relief and the source of brotherly support for Desmond. Matthew, a student from the Gambia delivered the most thought-provoking and equally confusing African proverbs. The show’s themes are timeless and always relevant.
The breakout film of the year, Rocks came out just last month but already has critical acclaim. The story follows a group of young Black and Brown girls, specifically the titular Rocks and her best friend Sumaya. After a difficult situation leaves the former to fend for herself and her younger brother, the latter, goes to heart-warming lengths to make sure her friend is okay.
There has yet to be such an authentic representation of Black British girlhood on the screen, and we hope this is just the first of many to come.
Gone Too Far!
ABritish-Nigerian film Gone Too Far takes place in the space of one day and represents the culture clashes that can appear between children of the diaspora and natives to the continent. The film comedically highlights the very clear differences between the two, but also reminds the audience of the joy of Black community, when those differences are embraced.
With moving performances from the likes of Ashley Walters and Michael Ward, the popularity of Top Boy doesn’t seem to be diminishing any time soon. Following the lives of Dushane, Sully and a number of characters on the fictional Summerhouse estate in Hackney, the show is a tense crime drama with friendship and the loyalty at the heart of it all. It’s even gained international success gaining a fan in rapper Drake, and it’s been confirmed to return for a fourth season, so keep your eyes peeled.
They’ve Gotta Have Us
Featuring cinema heavyweights and game changers like Harry Belafonte, John Boyega andDebbie Allen, They’ve Gotta Have Us provides deep insight into the powerful work that Black entertainers have been doing across decades. The three-part documentary was put together by Simon Fredrick, a British filmmaker and is a beautiful reminder of how far we’ve come in our art.