The era of 1970s Black cinema is at the forefront for film critic Elvis Mitchell’s Netflix documentary, “Is That Black Enough for You? How one decade changed the movies (and me).”
The documentary, which makes its world premiere in the Spotlight section of the 2022 New York Film Festival, debuts in select theaters October 28 before streaming on Netflix November 11. Mitchell writes, directs, and narrates the feature, which includes interviews with Samuel L. Jackson, Laurence Fishburne, Zendaya, and Whoopi Goldberg, as well as actors Billy Dee Williams, Harry Belafonte, Mario Van Peebles, Margaret Avery, and Charles Burnett.
“They were proof that we were here, that we create culture, that we have voices, and that we will be heard,” Fishburne says in the trailer about the legacy of Black filmmakers.
David Fincher and Steven Soderbergh produce the documentary, along with Angus Wall and Ciara Lacy.
The official synopsis reads: From celebrated writer and film historian Elvis Mitchell, “Is That Black Enough for You?” is both a documentary and deeply personal essay. The film examines the craft and power of cinema from a perspective often overlooked: the African-American contribution to films released from the landmark era of the ’70s. It is a deep dive into the impact that point of view had on movies, as well as popular culture. A love letter to film, it poses questions that have never been asked, let alone answered. Artists offer their distinctive prism on the creators and films that dazzled and inspired, providing insight into the history of Black representation going back to the earliest days of cinema, and the cultural impact of witnessing unapologetic Blackness.
“When Black films from the late ’60s and the ’70s come up, they’re dismissed with the term ‘Blaxploitation,'” Mitchell told Variety. “I have nothing against that word, but any era that includes ‘Killer of Sheep,’ ‘Lady Sings the Blues,’ ‘Blazing Saddles’, and ‘Symbiopsychotaxiplasm’ can’t be disregarded with that phrase.”
Mitchell continued, “As a Black viewer, I found myself confronted with what wasn’t being voiced about my people, and wondered why the movies were so slow to respond to Black audiences — who were paying good money to see movies — and even social shifts brought about by the civil rights movement.”
The documentary was more than 23 years in the making.
“Black film reintroduced the ideals of glamour and heroism to the medium. And that one failure became a convenient excuse to ignore Black film and give short shrift to Black audiences,” Mitchell said. “I fear that we’re perhaps a couple of box office misfires from such a reversion happening again.”
“Is That Black Enough for You?” premieres November 11 on Netflix.
Check out the trailer below.