The movie is a very eclectic project, and it might not be the best there is in terms of a historical documentary on these subjects. Still, we must appreciate its existence for many reasons. One is how timely the film is, as we are at a critical point, with the Black Lives Matter movement and protests. Moreover, since we are always ‘yelling’ (and rightfully so!) about diversity in the film and TV industry, this documentary could help generate ideas for biopics or be a launchpad for anybody looking for fresh suggestions for epic movies. It would be amazing to see more stories about the topics covered by Black History Activators.
Even if it prompts one to make another biopic about any of the individuals or moments mentioned that already had their own films (like Loving or Selma), that would be okay since the public at large is still not overly familiar with them. Besides, there is space for retelling these accounts from various other angles as they are complex and important. In addition, now more than ever we can surely revisit prominent Black figures’ narrative, whether in a documentary like Black History Activators, or else, instead of yet another biopic about royalties, war stories, or another remake coming after ten others telling pretty much the same famous story a-la Little Women, and, generally speaking, we absolutely do not need other biopics of troubled problematic rich white men.
“…could help generate ideas for biopics or be a launchpad for anybody looking for fresh suggestions…”
Apart from being shown in school, educating people, refreshing their memories (or inspiring them to make films!), it is unclear what the cinematic purpose of this project is as a feature documentary. Not to say it is not entertaining or enjoyable, but sadly, it has a few noticeable flaws.
The vignettes were somewhat uneven. Most would quickly introduce people for what they are known for, then explain how they arrived at that key stage of their lives, and what they went onto achieve after that. Some sections were extensive, fully painting the lives of the individuals, while others were too brief. Black History Activators is an odd mix, notably when including just a couple of events or court cases. Although it flowed quite smoothly, it often looked like a “work in progress” mostly when running out of archival footage, thus using the same images over and over. There must be numerous historical materials out there the director could’ve used, yet didn’t. Maybe it was financially difficult to acquire them, but the fact that she sometimes resorted to using random inserts to illustrate some point -since there are no interviews, just voice-over- was really weird and regrettably gave the whole production an unpolished look.
The tagline of Black History Activators is, “the most prolific figures and events of Black history,” but it’s missing a few crucial words: “some of” and “in the United States.” But in the end, it simultaneously teaches us the importance of activism, the role of civil rights pioneers, and true historical American heroes. For that alone, it is worth a one-time watch.
"…we are at a critical point, with the Black Lives Matter movement and protests."