Race in America: documentaries to watch, curated by Creatively Speaking

In solidarity with Black and POC communities, Realscreen has partnered with Creatively Speaking to amplify documentaries that educate and inform.⁠ Over the course of 25 years, Creatively Speaking has become a leading, curated ...
June 11, 2020

In solidarity with Black and POC communities, Realscreen has partnered with Creatively Speaking to amplify documentaries that educate and inform.⁠

Over the course of 25 years, Creatively Speaking has become a leading, curated film series offering a diverse forum that highlights independent film by and about women and people of color.

Working outside the mainstream, often with limited resources, the filmmakers represented in the Creatively Speaking Film Series provide a model for working within and around a historically underrepresented system that continues to this day.

The organization’s mission is to “change the cultural narrative, one image at a time,” and to expand audiences for independent film and video artists of color through theatrical and community screenings, followed by “lively and thoughtful” discussions about the subject matter, as well as the art and craft of filmmaking. The discussions can also expand to active engagement around the social issues presented in the films.

Join us in our work to listen, learn and unlearn by watching films selected by the team at Creatively Speaking (with edited synopses from the films’ distributors and press releases):

I Am Not Your Negro (2018)


I Am Not Your Negro, directed by Raoul Peck, envisions the book the late James Baldwin never finished, a radical narration about race in America, using the novelist’s own words, as read by Samuel L. Jackson.

With a rich trove of archive material, the film draws upon Baldwin’s notes on the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. to explore and bring a fresh and radical perspective to the current racial narrative in America.

I Am Not Your Negro is produced by Velvet Film, Artémis Productions and Close Up Films. It is a co-production with ARTE France and Independent Television Service (ITVS).

Peck serves as producer with Rémi Grellety and Hébert Peck. Co-producers are Patrick Quinet and Joëlle Bertossa; Audrey Rosenberg is consulting producer.

The film is executive produced by Sally Jo Fifer, Lois Vossen, Stéphane Quinet and Leslie Fields-Cruz. Amy Shatsky is supervising producer.

Decade of Fire (2019)


Decade of Fire covers a “shocking but untold” piece of American urban history, when the South Bronx was on fire in the 1970s.

Left unprotected by the city government, nearly a quarter-million people were displaced as their close-knit, multiethnic neighborhood burned to the ground, reducing the community to rubble.

Buildings burned almost continuously from an estimated 40 fires a day that destroyed 80% of area housing stock and displaced a quarter-million residents. Decade of Fire uses never-before-seen archival and home movie footage, plus testimonials from retired FDNY firefighters and brass, as well as Bronx historians and community organizers, to reveal the reasons for the devastation, showing what can happen when a community chooses to fight back and reclaim their neighborhood.

With the help of fellow survivors, co-director Vivian Vázquez Irizarry, who grew up in the South Bronx, and other community leaders tell the story of how they banded together amidst the rubble and built a better future for their children.

Gretchen Hildebran serves as director with Irizarry. Hildebran and Irizarry serve as producers with Nedya Martinez and Julia Steele Allen.

Executive producers are Sally Jo Fifer, Lois Vossen, Sandie Viquez Pedlow and Leslie Fields-Cruz. Michael Kinomoto is supervising producer, and Yoruba Richen is consulting producer.

Decade of Fire is a co-production of Red Nut Films and ITVS in association with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) and Black Public Media (BPM).

13th (2016)


The title of acclaimed director Ava DuVernay’s galvanizing documentary refers to the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.”

The progression from that second qualifying clause to mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay. Through archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis.

DuVernay also serves as writer and producer with Spencer Averick; Howard Barish, president and CEO of Kandoo Films, is producer.

 Free Angela and All Political Prisoners (2013)


Shola Lynch’s Free Angela and All Political Prisoners tells the story of Angela Davis, an American political activist, philosopher, academic and author.

In the 1960s, Davis joins the Communist Party, protests with the Black Panthers, and becomes a principle spokesperson for the burgeoning prison reform movement. As a result, she finds herself fighting to keep her job, and in the national media spotlight characterized by her many detractors as a dangerous subversive menace, and by her supporters as a strong leader challenging authority and boldly advocating for “Power to All People.”

On Aug. 7, 1970 Davis is implicated in the politically motivated kidnapping and murder of a judge in a brazen daylight shootout at the Marin County, California courthouse. She flees California, convinced she will not be given a fair trial and is placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list.

After a national manhunt, Davis is captured two months later in New York City. Charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy, Davis is put on trial in one of the most sensational court cases of its time. After a two-year legal battle, an all white jury acquits her on all charges in 1972.

Lynch serves as director and producer with Sidra Smith, Carole Lambert and Carine Ruszniewski.

The Talk: Race in America (2017)


This two-hour documentary, directed by Sam Pollard, is about the increasingly common conversation taking place in homes and communities across the U.S. between parents of color and their children, especially sons, about how to behave if they are ever stopped by the police.

The Talk is produced by Thirteen Productions for PBS’s WNET in association with Latino Public Broadcasting.

Geeta Gandbhir, Shola Lynch, One9, Erik Parker, Llewellyn M. Smith and Jennifer Maytorena Taylor are the segment producers. Sandie Pedlow is executive producer for Latino Public Broadcasting. Pollard is supervising producer. Julie Anderson is the producer and executive producer.

Whose Streets? (2018)

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In 2014, when unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and left lying in the street for hours, it marks a breaking point for the residents of the St. Louis area and beyond.

From Magilla Pictures, Whose Streets? is an unflinching look at the Ferguson, Missouri uprising. As the national guard rolls in, a new generation mounts a powerful battle cry not just for their civil rights, but for the right to live. It first premiered as part of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Sabaah Folayan is writer, director and producer; Damon Davis is co-director and producer. The film is produced by Jennifer MacArthur and Flannery Miller; Chris Renteria is co-producer.

The Feeling of Being Watched (2019)


In the Arab-American neighborhood outside of Chicago where director Assia Boundaoui grew up, most of her neighbors think they have been under surveillance for over a decade. While investigating their experiences, Assia uncovers tens of thousands of pages of FBI documents that prove her hometown was the subject of one of the largest counterterrorism investigations ever conducted in the U.S. before 9/11, code-named “Operation Vulgar Betrayal.”

The Feeling of Being Watched follows Assia as she pieces together this secret FBI operation, while grappling with the effects of a lifetime of surveillance on herself and her family.

Boundaoui and Jessica Devaney, a Brookyln-based producer and founder of Multitude Films, serve as producers. Justine Nagan and Christopher White are executive producers for PBS strand ‘POV.’

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