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Film Suggestions for Reflection on Racial Justice

Longer Form Films and Documentaries:

Fruitvale Station 
An 85 minute, wide release dramatic film based on the events leading to the death of Oscar Grant, a young black man who was killed in 2009 by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station in Oakland, CA. It won numerous film festival awards and is available through Amazon Video and other commercial outlets. Made in 2009 and rated R.

3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets 
From the film website: “On November 23, 2012, Jordan Davis, a black 17-year-old, died when he and three friends drove into a gas station in Jacksonville, FL. Davis and his friends got into a verbal altercation with white 45-year-old Michael Dunn, who took issue with the volume of the teenagers’ rap music. The documentary aims to reconstruct the night of the murder, delving into the intricate web of racial prejudice in 21st century America and how such prejudices can result in tragedy. 3 ½ Minutes, Ten Bullets also details the journey of Jordan Davis’ parents from grief to activism, and explores public opinion on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law.” The documentary made its world premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where it won a Special Jury Award for Social Impact.” 100 minutes.

Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness 
A one-hour documentary about a town coming together to take action after anti-immigrant violence devastates the community. In 2008, a series of attacks against Latino residents of Patchogue, New York, culminate with the murder of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant who had lived in the Long Island village for 13 years. Over a two-year period, the story follows Mayor Paul Pontieri, the victim’s brother, Joselo Lucero, and Patchogue residents as they openly address the underlying causes of the violence, work to heal divisions and begin taking steps to ensure everyone in their village will be safe and respected. Discussion guides also available

Not In Our Town: Billings
Townspeople of all races and religions found common ground against hate based attacks against their African American, Native American and Jewish families and congregations. Religious and community leaders, labor union volunteers, law enforcement, the local newspaper and concerned residents united in action and spoke loudly against hate and intolerance, proclaiming in no uncertain terms "Not In Our Town!"  Filmed in 1995, 25 minutes long.

Race the Power of an Illusion by PBS, 2003
This is a three part mini-series with a downloadable discussion guide.

From the creators: In producing this series, we felt it was important to go back to first principles and ask, ‘What is this thing called ‘race’?’—a question so basic it is rarely raised. What we discovered is that most of our common assumptions about race—for instance, that the world’s people can be divided biologically along racial lines—are wrong. Yet the consequences of racism are very real. How do we make sense of these two seeming contradictions? Our hope is that this series can help us all navigate through our myths and misconceptions, and scrutinize some of the assumptions we take for granted. In that sense, the real subject of the film is not so much race but the view, or more precisely, the notions about race we all hold.”

  • Episode I: The Difference Between Us
    Human variation and confronting our myths about race
  • Episode II: The Story We Tell
    History and origins of the racial idea
  • Episode III: The House We Live In
    Systemic racism—how institutions and policies preference some groups at the expense of others.

Rosenwald is the incredible story of Julius Rosenwald, the son of an immigrant peddler who rose to become the President of Sears. Influenced by the writings of the educator Booker T. Washington, this Jewish philanthropist joined forces with African American communities in the Jim Crow South to build 5,300 schools, providing 660,000 black children with access to education. Inspired by the Jewish ideals of tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world), as well as a deep concern about racial inequality in America, Julius Rosenwald used his wealth to become one of America's most effective philanthropists. This important new documentary from award-winning filmmaker Aviva Kempner reveals Rosenwald as an active participant in the pre-Civil Rights Movement struggle for racial equity. Released in 2015. 95 minutes.

To arrange a screening, contact Lisa Rivo of the National Center for Jewish Film at lisarivo@brandeis.edu or call 781-736-8600.

Waking in Oak Creek
As the Sikh community in Oak Creek, Wisconsin prepares for Sunday prayers, a deadly hate attack shatters their lives but not their resilience. After six worshippers are killed by a white supremacist, the local community finds inspiration in the Sikh tradition of forgiveness and faith. Lieutenant Brian Murphy, shot 15 times in the attack, joins the mayor and police chief as they forge new bonds with the Sikh community. Young temple members, still grieving from the tragedy, emerge as leaders in the quest to end hate and violence as thousands gather for vigils and a 6K run to honor the victims and the Sikh spirit of “relentless optimism.” Together, a community rocked by hate is awakened and transformed.  Filmed in 2014, 35 minutes long.


Short Films and Clips:

Who Counts? Race and the Jewish Future, an ELI talk by Ilana Kaufman
The way we talk about ourselves as a Jewish community matters. Who tends to be counted, and who tends to be left out of the story? Ilana Kaufman, Public Affairs and Civic Engagement Director for JCRC San Francisco, issues a challenge to the Jewish community to think about racial diversity in our own spaces. 15 minutes long.

How to Overcome our Biases: Walk Boldly Towards Them, a TED talk by Verna Meyers, 2014
Our biases can be dangerous, even deadly — as we've seen in the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. Diversity advocate Verna Myers looks closely at some of the subconscious attitudes we hold toward out-groups. She makes a plea to all people: Acknowledge your biases. Then move toward, not away from, the groups that make you uncomfortable. In a funny, impassioned, important talk, she shows us how. 16 minutes long.

What is Systemic Racism? (Video Series) by Race Forward
A series of short videos focused on unpacking how significant aspects of our society are organized and impacted by race, including the wealth gap, employment, housing discrimination and government surveillance. These videos are free to use, and also available on YouTube.

How to Tell Someone They Sound Racist by Jay Smooth
A three minute video unpacking the difference between the “What you did” conversation and the “Who you are” conversation. It’s a great way to open a discussion about confronting racist language, ideas and practices without getting lost in issues of character or motive.