Challenging the Narrative: Film and TV for the socially conscious

Mudbound. Photo courtesy of Pioneer Pictures.
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Each of the following films and TV shows examine the issues at the root of the intensely racist climate modern culture has inherited from the abuses and trials of its forefathers. Three extremely different time periods are covered, all dealing with different prejudices and violence against ethnic groups. If you’re open to broadening your view of historical events, though not without bias, any of these is a good place to start.

Mudbound, Feature Film, Netflix 2017, Directed by Dee Rees.

Set in the late 1930s and ’40s, Mudbound chronicles the stories of two families; one that owns land, and one that works it. Set just after the abolition of slavery, the film showcases the pain of war without cushioning either side of the story. Written as a narrative from the point of view of each of the main characters, viewers are privy to their internal struggle while reality plays out, showing the discord between what is and what should be. This film is timely, and delivers superb performances from both old favourites and new faces.

Frontier, TV Series, Netflix 2017, Created by Peter and Rob Blackie.

Set at the peak of the North American fur-trade era, Frontier showcases the violent struggle between Indigenous Peoples and Colonists. Following all those despised by the British—the Scottish, Irish, Indigenous, and the poor—viewers finally get a vision of the corruption of the Red Coats and the ruthless, greed-filled European fur traders. Not for the faint of heart, Frontier refuses to mince violence. One major drawback of this series is the Netflix failure to cast a Métis actor to play the starring role. Jason Mamoa is indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands, but not readily believable as Irish Métis in stature or accent. Harp has no discernible motives for the first few episodes, until a loss is revealed. He is a man of no country—despised by the leaders of Indigenous tribes for his European heritage and hated fervently by Europeans for his Indigenous blood. Labelled a traitor by the Hudson’s Bay Company, he works tirelessly to breach their monopoly at all costs.

World War II in Colour, Netflix, 2017.

Featuring digitally enhanced real footage of key moments during WWII, World War II in Colour has been hailed as both moving and traumatizing. Critics are split on the accuracy of the War’s portrayal through this medium, as it largely contains footage from an American perspective, with downplayed contributions of allies like Canada and the British. All critics are in agreement that the digitized footage creates a new awareness in a generation untouched by a war of this scale. Episodes are not given in linear succession.