New movies to stream from home this week


Former New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell is the writer and director of “Is This Black Enough for You?,” a highly personal yet deeply informed documentary essay that argues that the 1970s — the heyday of blaxploitation and beyond — was a golden age for Black film: “Why did these movies stop getting made?” he laments rhetorically, referring to stories showcasing the new kind of raw, swaggering confidence of such films as “Shaft.” It’s a great question, but I’m not sure Mitchell ever really answers it — or wants to. Instead, he takes a big running start by explaining how his grandmother influenced his perspective as a child. (She wouldn’t let him watch “Mayberry R.F.D.” because, as he recalls her saying, “There’s no Black people in that Southern town. What do you think happened to them?”) Mitchell makes some intriguing connections, comparing scenes of Black actor Duane Jones boarding up windows against zombies in the 1968 horror classic “Night of the Living Dead” to footage of homeowners barricading their homes against rioters, for instance. He’s biting off a lot here, and it sometimes shows. Mitchell races through a laundry list of 1970s movies, well-known and obscure — “Super Fly,” “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” “Buck and the Preacher,” “The Spook Who Sat by the Door,” “Claudine,” “Thomasine & Bushrod,” “The Wiz” and many more — devoting mere seconds of commentary to some. But he certainly gives viewers food for thought: Mitchell remembers thinking, as a teenager, that 1974’s “Three the Hard Way,” a thriller about a plot to poison the U.S. water supply with a toxin targeting Black people, was the “most laughable” thing he had ever seen. Then his father told him about the Tuskegee experiment, in which Black men were deliberately infected with syphilis without consent. There’s such a thing as justifiable paranoia, Mitchell notes, joking that the condition is the “scientific term for African American.” R. Available on Netflix. Contains nudity, some sexual material, coarse language, violence and drug use. 125 minutes.

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