Contemporary Film and the Black Atlantic

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In recent history, an increasing amount of mainstream films entering the marketplace have focused on the Black Atlantic and the issues tied to slavery and racism. By focusing on several examples of different filmic genres that tackle these themes — Cloud Atlas (2012), Amazing Grace (2006), The Help (2011), The Butler (2013), The Princess and the Frog (2009), The Pirates of the Caribbean series (2003-11), Lincoln (2012), Django Unchained (2012), and 12 Years a Slave (2013) — we will examine how distinguished directors engage with the “filmic imaginary” in relation to the Black Atlantic. Many of these films have been recognized by critics internationally and at home for their artistic merits, and several have won or been nominated for Academy Awards. Our site features several sections — “History,” “Sentiment,” “Community,” and “Violence” — in effort to discover how and why the filmmakers choose to represent the settings, history, characters, and issues in the way that they do. By putting these films in conversation with one another, we show how multiple portrayals of black life/racism/slavery impact the expressions evident on screen.

What are these films doing? How they are they achieving their constructed ends? Who are they made for? Does gearing these films at a specific audience change how they are constructed? What happens to history in this process? What kinds of blackness can they envision? What kind of relationships between different races are possible? What kind of world do they imagine? These are only some of the questions that this website will address in our analysis.

These are by no means all the films that delve into these issues and the Black Atlantic. We have left out many international films, documentaries, and films that deal with Africa itself (for example, The Constant Gardner). We also have omitted television, which has increasingly included black characters, including international figures such as Mr. Eko on Lost. But what we have included is a set of representative 21st-century films that have become prominent in popular culture in one way or another. These films will provide a gateway into how studios have imagined the worlds in which the Black Atlantic and race exist. In this website, we desire to add to the existing scholarship surrounding these films and the Black Atlantic.

We welcome your contributions through comments and feedback. Thank you for reading.

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Familial and Community Relationships


Sentimentality and Love



How to cite this project: Sasha Panaram, Hannah Rogers, Thayne Stoddard. “Contemporary Film and the Black Atlantic.” Deeps, (Accessed on Date)


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