Dear Laemmle Fans,
Looking back, it will be hard to associate last year with anything other than the pandemic. But I hope we also remember 2020 as the moment when the Black Lives Matter movement entered the public discourse, spurning meaningful discussions about how best to address and root out the persistent racism that has plagued American society since its foundation.
The origins of Black History Month can be traced back to 1926, when historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Morland chose February to coincide with the births of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas. Exactly 50 years later, when President Ford officially recognized the observance, he called on the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
I hope that you’ll take President Ford’s words to heart, and dedicate some time this month to learning more about the strength of the Black community, and the diversity of the African American experience. The stories are all around you – but if you need a place to start, look no further than the films in our special Black History Month collection.
We begin with some Laemmle Virtual Cinema throwbacks, including your favorite film from last year: John Lewis, Good Trouble. Other currently available documentaries we’ve added to the collection include Mr. Soul and Softie, as well as the dramas Mandabi and Miss Juneteenth (featuring an award-winning performances from Nicole Beharie).
For those interested in fresh new releases, keep an eye out for the upcoming historical film Son of the South (2/5) and the relationship-based drama Test Pattern (2/19). On the documentary side, we’re opening the intimate 17 Blocks (2/19), a stunning achievement that uses two decades of home video footage to analyze the challenges faced by a Black family in our nation’s capitol.
We’re also offering a variety of new films about life in Africa, from the indie comedy Two Weeks in Lagos (2/19), to the Ivorian Oscar submission Night of the Kings (2/26). Next up are two films about the African diaspora – The Story of Lover’s Rock (2/5), examining reggae in the United Kingdom, and a re-release of the 1984 drama Quilombo (2/26), which details a 17th century slave revolt in Brazil.
Lastly, but certainly not least-ly, we’re proud to open the curated compilation program Our Right to Gaze (2/14), a series of timely short films ranging in tone from gripping drama to heart-warming comedy, all with one shared theme in mind – exposing the perspective of Black filmmakers.
As America overcomes the pandemic, let’s also commit ourselves to the eradication of racism – whether by direct action, or maintaining pressure on our institutions and elected representatives. I acknowledge that in and of itself, watching a movie on Laemmle Virtual Cinema will not advance that cause. But if a film inspires you to take further action, than it has served a great and glorious purpose.
All the best,