New films and new ways to watch them…something to celebrate!

Yes, we still have some time to wait till movie theaters open. Sadly, as the US is seeing by the uptick in COVID cases, many states are re-evaluating their reopening of businesses and indoor businesses are staying closed much longer. The good news is, though there may not be theaters to flock to yet–there ARE new films being released and many of them are surprisingly good and very relevant for these times we’re in.

It’s been wonderful to see people using this enforced down time to learn more about the experience of growing up black in America. There are new films out that showcase a wide variety of black lives: soldiers, entertainers, politicians, activists and transgender people of color. Here’s a small selection and a new way to stream that you might not have utilized.

One way to watch new movies is to check out the Virtual Cinemas from many art house theaters. You may have one in your area. Here in Beacon, NY, I can stream films on the Story Screen website. I’m going to watch Whose Streets (trailer), the powerful documentary about the Ferguson uprising. The film received a standing ovation at Sundance Film Festival and left people in tears and full of renewed energy to tackle racism.

In Colorado, Denver Film Society runs the SIE Film Center and they have a new digital platform where you can watch new releases. You simply login at Denver Film dot org and click Virtual Cinema. Check out one of the new documentaries: Ella Fitzgerald, It’s Just One of Those Things (trailer, also on Netflix) or the one on Congressman John Lewis: John Lewis: Good Trouble. (trailer) Vanity Fair calls John Lewis: Good Trouble, “the documentary America needs right now”. Members pay $11 and Non-Members pay $13.

If you feel like you’ve seen everything on offer on Netflix, think again. There’s a new Spike Lee film, Da 5 Bloods (trailer) and an eye-opening new documentary about transgender representation in the media called Disclosure (trailer). This documentary is so timely. Did you notice the brightly-colored Google Doodle on Monday? It was in honor of Marsha P. Johnson, a transgender activist. You may have heard that there’s been a lot of attention called to #BlackTransLivesMatter. There was a 3,000 person protest in Washington, DC. Why now? Why is this such an important issue?

Disclosure features Laverne Cox, actor, producer and writer known for her Emmy-nominated role on Orange is the New Black. This insightful documentary looks back at problematic representation of transgender men and women in media. Instead of shaming the audience for having been entertained by cross-dressing men or wagging a finger at us for not realizing that even modern portrayals of trans-individuals are flawed at best, and tragic at worst – the film instead gives us trans individuals talking about how those representations affected them. Instead of sad tale of lives lost and statistics, director Sam Feder wisely chose to let those living those lives to enlighten us.

Drawing a line from early comic representation to films like Boys Don’t Cry and Silence of the Lambs–actors, models and dancers share how seeing someone like themselves on screen affected their lives. Did an offensive portrayal drive them deeper in the closet or a more sensitive nuanced role help them feel validated? It’s tragic to think that black transwomen, in particular, have been murdered for trying to simply live their lives. It’s an urgent crisis. Two women were killed in mid-June, Riah Milton in Ohio and Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells in Pennsylvania. At least 14 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been violently killed in 2020 alone (Human Rights Campaign). In 2019, at least 26 transgender or gender non-conforming people were violently killed, the majority of whom were Black transgender women. 

As trans representation in films and television shows increases, there’s the hope that more people will understand what life is like for someone born in the wrong gendered body. And once educated, feel some empathy and not fear what they don’t understand. This new documentary, Disclosure is a step in the right direction. I hope a lot of people will watch it on Netflix.

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