This is a self-directed film festival. You may choose to assign students to watch a movie and discuss in class or in another way that is meaningful to the topic and your program. Movies can be accessed through Southwest Tech's Swank account. Students and Staff: this service utiliazes Single Sign On, so you should have direct access. If this does not work, try usin your SWTC username and password to log in.

42 (128 minutes)

Discussion questions below are taken from American Film Institute.

In 1947, Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era when he was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and faces considerable racism in the process.

  • What characteristics about Jackie helped him get through the blatant racism that occurred on and off the field?
  • Why is Jackie Robinson’s legacy important not only to the history of baseball but also today’s society?
  • The moment where teammate Pee Wee Reese ran over to Jackie Robinson and put his arm around him in front of the crowd was commemorated with a statue in Brooklyn, NY. Why was this moment so important?

BlacKkKlansman (134 minutes)

Discussion questions below are taken from Teach with Movies.

BLACKKKLANSMAN adapted from Ron Stallworth’s true story about his undercover investigation into the Ku Klux Klan as a Black detective in the 1970s, was directed by Academy Award® winner – and AFI Honorary Degree recipient – Spike Lee, and produced by Jason Blum and Jordon Peele.

  • There are two radical groups depicted in this story, the KKK and the Black Power movement. What is this movie telling us about them?
  • Whose actions in this film actually benefit African Americans and, actually, all Americans? Is it the KKK, the Black Power people like Kwame Ture, the black student leader Patrice Dumas, or Ron Stallworth? Defend your answer.
  • Farce is a type of comedy which uses exaggeration, buffoonery, and ludicrously improbable situations to evoke laughter or to amuse its audience. Great comedy also contains an element of truth. Name a scene in BlacKkKlansman that is farcical but also contains a kernel of truth. Describe the scene the truth that it refers to...

Dear White People (106 minutes)

Discussion questions below are taken from American Film Institute.

Dear White People is a campus-based satire dissecting contemporary racial politics by following four African-American students studying at a privileged university.

  • How does Justin Simien expand on the Black experience and the notion of identity in DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, particularly through the characters of Samantha White and Lionel Higgins? What contradictions exist within those characters?
  • What does the film have to say about the world of predominantly white comedy – in terms of the humor magazine “Pastiche” in the film? What are your feelings on politically incorrect humor and how can it be exploited as a shield for racism/sexism?
  • How can we confront the racism inherent in our culture and bridge the power gap to foster greater understanding and progress as a society?

Do the Right Thing (120 minutes)

Discussion questions below are taken from American Film Institute.

On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone’s hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence.

  • Is there a moral center to the film – someone who embodies the ideals of civic engagement?
  • Pino’s racism is apparent but contradicted in part by his admiration of black athletes and musicians. What point is Spike Lee trying to make about this contradiction?
  • Spike Lee evokes Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X at the end of the film. How did the two civil rights activists differ in their belief systems, and what message do you think Lee was trying to get across by quoting them both?

Harriet (125 minutes)

Discussion questions below are taken from Teach with Movies.

Harriet Tubman was without doubt one of America’s greatest heroes. Her courage, ingenuity, and tenacity enabled her to escape from slavery in 1849. She then became an “abductor” for the Underground Railroad. With a price on her head and facing certain torture and death if she were caught, Harriet Tubman went back into the South 13 times freeing the rest of her family and many other slaves. It is estimated that she shepherded some 70 – 300 slaves to freedom. She was also instrumental in freeing 750 slaves in one military operation during the Civil War.

  • What can we learn from the life of Harriet Tubman?
  • Why did the Underground Railroad operate and maintain hiding places for fugitive slaves in Norther states such as New York?
  • Tell the class, if students do not already know, that there was a lot of resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Mobs of people, white and black, would attempt to rescue fugitive slaves who had been arrested by U.S. Marshalls or seized by slave-catchers empowered to act under the law. (See e.g., See Braddock, pp. 116 – 128 and 143 – 149.). On occasion, people died in these encounters. Juries would not convict people who were clearly guilty of attempting to interfere with the law. People also covertly resisted the law by participating in the Underground Railroad. Compare this to the non-violent direct action of the Indian movement for independence led by Mahatma Gandhi and the U.S. Civil Rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King. Then ask the question, when is violent resistance justified, when is covert resistance justified, and when is non-violent direct action called for. In the discussions bring in applicable current events.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (93 minutes)

Discussion questions below are taken from Beloit College.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a movie based on Rebecca Skloot's best-selling novel. This film, available on HBO, shows Skloot's research into the fascinating life of Henrietta Lacks and her family. Learn about medical ethics and the history of the HeLa cells that changed the world with this fantastic drama.

  • Race and racism are woven throughout the book, both in the story presented and in the process of the research for the book. Skloot was yet another white person asking the Lacks family about Henrietta. How do you feel about a white woman creating the narrative of this story? How did her race help or hinder Skloot in the writing and researching of the book?
  • What role did the deferential attitude toward doctors in the early 20th century play in the interaction between Henrietta and her family and Johns Hopkins? How has that attitude toward doctors changed over the decades? Do patients’ socioeconomic differences affect the relationship today?
  • What is your opinion on the needs of scientific research versus the ethical rights of individuals?
  • What obligations and responsibilities do citizens have towards the perpetuation of their freedom?

Just Mercy (137 minutes)

Discussion questions below are taken from Teach with Movies.

Just Mercy is a film that presents a moving narrative of deeply ingrained racism in the American South. Anti-Blackness in the U.S. isn’t limited to the communities portrayed in the film, but is widespread throughout our country-with devastating consequences.

  • The fictional Herbert Richardson said, “A girl is dead because of me.” The fictional Walter McMillian responds, “That doesn’t give someone the right to kill you back.” Bryan Stevenson said, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done” Then again, there is part of many of us that feels that people who commit really heinous acts should be killed by the state as punishment. There are arguments both ways. Do you agree or disagree with capital punishment?
  • Walter McMillian was eventually freed and exonerated. Does this show that the justice system worked in his case?
  • What do you take away from this story?
  • What happens to a society that does not embrace the concept of fairness?

Miracle of St. Anna (166 minutes)

Discussion questions below are taken from LitLovers.

Set in 1944 Italy, it is the story of four members of the US Army’s all-black division who get trapped in a Tuscan village during World War II.

  • In a fiery argument with Stamps, Bishop says, "So now the great white father sends you out here to shoot Germans so he can hang you back home for looking at his woman wrong.... The Negro don't have doodleysquat to do with this...this devilment, this war-to-free-the-world shit". In what ways does the war reveal the racism and hypocrisy entrenched in American society? How are the black soldiers treated by their white commanders? How are they treated by the Italians? Is Bishop's cynicism justified?
  • Why does Train become so attached to the young Italian boy he rescues? What does the boy offer him that he's never had before? What does Train learn from him? Is the boy, as Train claims, "an angel"?
  • Train, Stamps, Bishop, and Hector are four distinctive and vividly drawn characters. How are they different from one another? What varying attitudes do they have about the war? What larger themes does McBride address through the conflict between Bishop and Stamps?

The Butler (135 minutes)

Discussion questions below are taken from American Film Institute.

LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER stars Oscar® winner Forest Whitaker and is based on the life of Eugene Allen, a butler who worked in the White House under eight presidential administrations, bearing witness to some of the most influential political figures and tumultuous times in U.S. history.

  • How is LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER a tale of two faces? What does Cecil mean when he speaks about the “two faces” every Black person must wear, one face worn to operate around white people and the one worn around other Black people? Why would a person need to adopt two faces?
  • In what way does this younger generation refuse to be submissive when faced with racial oppression? How do they destigmatize and transform being arrested and put in jail into a badge of honor?
  • Do you think of Cecil as overly subservient throughout the film? What quiet acts of rebellion are portrayed?