• Taiwo Ava Oyebola

FILM: WHAT ARE WE WATCHING?

July Edition



The importance of Film, TV and Theatre in providing entertainment, relief and escapism to their audiences has definitely increased during lockdown, and so we think it's fair to say that we’ve all been consuming much more than usual... 


So Taiwo and Sade, our Film and Theatre Editors have carefully curated a monthly watch list of everything that they’ve been watching in July. The film, TV and plays they’ve mentioned are sure to cater to a variety of moods and taste, let us know what you think about their July recommendations!


Helpful terms to note:

TW: Trigger warnings for sensitive/explicit content.

What?: quick run-down of what the show is about.

Why?: the reason why we think you should watch this.

Tai’s pick: chosen by our Editor, Taiwo.

Sade’s pick:  chosen by our Sub-editor, Sade



‘Family Affair’ - ones to watch with the whole family.


Tai & Sade’s Pick!

Family Reunion (Netflix) 



What?

An African-American family moves closer to their immediate family in Georgia from Seattle, the show explores all the members of the family adjusting to a new life down south. 


Why?

A lighthearted comedy featuring sit-com faves like Tia Mowry-Hardrict (Sister, Sister!) and Loretta Devine. If you grew up on shows like My Wife and Kids then this is the show for you. It’s low commitment and is perfect for a chilled and easy watch with the family.



‘The Revolution Will Be Televised’ - delve deeper into the kind of stuff they don’t teach you in school.


Tai’s Pick!

13th (Netflix and also available on their Youtube channel to watch for free!) TW: racism, racialised violence, mention of suicide.



What?

In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom.


Why?

Named after the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery in 1865, DuVernay’s Emmy-winning documentary tracks the connections between slavery and the mass incarceration of Black people in the United States. The first time I watched this documentary was in New York working on a project which explored Black histories and resistance, and it forced me to confront the weight and impact of slavery in America and made me question the landscape and society I was briefly inhabiting further. Like Ava DuVernay’s other masterpiece, When They See Us (also available on Netflix), the truth of this documentary is devastating, but it sheds light on an incredibly important issue.


Sade’s Pick!

Sitting in Limbo (BBC iPlayer)  TW: Deteriorating Mental Health, Racial Discrimination, Financial Struggle



What?

Premiering on the BBC in commemoration of the 72nd anniversary since the HMP Windrush set sail, this show documents the horrific treatment of Anthony Bryan who was born in Jamaica and came to Britain with his mother, using just her passport in the 1960s. Sitting in Limbo follows Anthony and his family as he struggles to prove his British citizenship in order to prevent his deportation back to Jamaica.  This shocking but truthful tale provides a direct insight into the real-life experiences of those that fell victim to the Home Office’s wrongdoings when Amber Rudd was Home Secretary and Theresa May was Prime Minister.


Why?

As a descendant of the Windrush generation, 2018 was a scary time and  I was so worried that a loved one would be wrongfully deported. Luckily for me, none of my family was subject to the humiliation and confusion that Anthony Bryan and his family experienced. To see the emasculation and dehumanization of a man that closely resembled people in my life, made this show so honest and true in its documentation of the Windrush Scandal.



‘Y’all Slept On This!!’ - recs we feel like everyone should have watched this month. 


Tai’s Pick!

I May Destroy You (BBC). TW: sexual assault, trauma flashbacks, nudity.



What?

From Bafta-winner Michaela Coel, a fearless, frank and provocative new drama about sexual consent and modern relationships.


Why?

This 12 part series is definitely one of my favourite picks for this month as it sensitively deals with sexual assault and also confronts the intersectionality which has often been left out of the #MeToo movement. Staying true to her Chewing Gum roots (available on Netflix and All4), there are a lot of funny moments in I May Destroy You as well as poignant ones. One episode that particularly stands out is episode 3 (that whole club scene is just ridiculous) and seeing the fierce bonds between Arabella (Coel) and her best friends Terry and Kwame, enriches the journey that we follow them all on. Plus the soundtrack is truly excellent!


#thinkingoutloudshakespeare.



What?

A social media series, started by Black creative Elliot Barnes-Worrel, with different actors performing Shakespearean monologues during lockdown.


Why?

So many people seem to be turning to the Bard during quarantine, but I particularly like this series because of its showcasing of Black and Asian talent. I particularly liked Barbershop Chronicles’ Inua Elams’ take on Sonnet 18 ‘How do I compare thee..’ which celebrates the small joys in life and plantain (!).


Tai’s Pick!

Premature (Netflix). TW: nudity, explicit language, abortion.



What?

On a summer night in Harlem during her last months at home before starting college, seventeen-year-old poet Ayanna meets Isaiah, a charming music producer who has just moved to the city. It’s not long before these two artistic souls are drawn together in a passionate summer romance. But as the highs of young love give way to jealousy, suspicion, and all-too-real consequences, Ayanna must confront the complexities of the adult world—whether she is ready to or not.


Why?

If you’re looking for a coming of age film that’s not Greta Gerwig’s Ladybird, this film might just hit the spot. Centering on Black female friendships, spoken word and romance (our lovers kiss within the first 15 minutes of the film), Premature intimately and convincingly portrays this whirlwind summer romance. Also, the cinematography of this film is so good and reminds me of Melina Matsoukas and Barry Jenkins a.k.a. people that know how to properly light melanated skin….


Sade’s Pick!

Small Island (NT Live on YouTube) TW: Racism, Violence, References to War



What?

This National Theatre Live production premiered on YouTube from Thursday 18th June 2020 until Thursday 25th June. The play follows three intricately connected stories set in 1948 as the Empire Windrush set sail to Britain: Hortense yearns for a new life away from rural Jamaica, Gilbert dreams of becoming a lawyer, and Queenie longs to escape her Lincolnshire roots. Hope and humanity meet stubborn reality as the play traces the tangled history between Jamaica and the UK.


Why?

A story often untold in British History, Small Island explores the role of Jamaicans fighting in WW2 as part of the Commonwealth, as well as the treatment they received upon their arrival in England in 1948. With its use of historical clips from the docking of the Empire Windrush, Small Island’s gripping storyline and it’s relatable characters has you laughing, on the verge of tears, and on the edge of your seat. If you didn’t manage to catch the play in theatre or online, we highly recommend reading Andrea Levy’s original novel, of the same name, that these productions were based on. 

Tai’s Pick!

TW: racism, police brutality. My White Best Friend (And Other Letters Left Unsaid)  - Royal Court Theatre, (online)



What?

‘Originally featured as part of Black Lives Black Words at the Bush Theatre, and after two runs at The Bunker Theatre, My White Best Friend (and Other Letters Left Unsaid) is moving online for the first time in collaboration with the Royal Court Theatre. Like every incarnation of the festival My White Best Friend (and Other Letters Left Unsaid), everyone will be part of the live experience and bear witness to the highs, the lows and the uncomfortable truths. De-Lahay’s provocative act of letter writing, which sparked the festival, engages with racial tensions, microaggressions and emotional labour, asking the privileged to step back to allow the rest of the room to take up space.’


Why?

This was the first piece of theatre I watched live via Zoom and this new format, plus the style of the show made for an interesting evening. I was particularly struck by how vulnerable the letters were and found some aspects particularly relatable, like not hearing from non-Black friends or family members at the start of the BLM protests. A large portion of the tickets were made free for Black audience members via the incredible Black Ticket Project and there was also a post-show breakout room for Black audience members and it was amazing having that connection and traditional post-show debrief with the community.



Spotlight - Pride Month.


Tai’s Pick!

Watermelon Woman (Criterion Collective)



What?

Cheryl Dunye’s bitingly funny and deeply personal feature debut offers an authentic lens into the Black lesbian experience. The director herself stars as Cheryl, a twenty-something lesbian struggling to make a documentary about Fae Richards, a beautiful and elusive 1930s Black film actress popularly known as the ‘Watermelon Woman’. 


Why?

Watermelon Woman is groundbreaking and revolutionary in many ways as it’s the first feature film directed by a Black lesbian.  Cheryl’s desire to document the life of the fictional ‘Watermelon Woman’ points to her wider desire to have her own experiences as a Black lesbian documented, or as Dunye notes, to see the ‘possibility’ of her own life. Watermelon Woman is incredibly meta, with some scenes shot in a documentary style, allowing  Dunye to critique the stereotypical ‘mammy’ roles Black women were given in the 30s/40s, as well as the failings of history in documenting these women’s lives. Released in the 90s, I also had incredible shirt envy whilst watching this film!


Tai’s Pick!

Trigonometry (BBC iPlayer)



What?

In London, cafe owner Gemma and her paramedic boyfriend Kieran are barely making ends meet. Their new lodger Ray initiates an adventure nobody expected.


Why?

Weirdly hidden on the BBC iPlayer catalogue, this show delicately explores polyamory, the intersectionality of race and sexuality, mental health and gentrification. I’m still so captivated by the characters and the storytelling that I’ve watched this about 3 times now so if that doesn’t convince you I don’t know what will.



‘The Group Chat pick’ - watch it or mute the gc!


Tai’s Pick!

The Lovebirds (Netflix) TW: explicit language, murder.



What?

When a couple in the fast lane to ‘Splitsville’ accidentally careens into a murder, they take off on a wild race to find the killer and clear their names.


Why?

One of the first films to have its premiere affected by COVID-19, Lovebirds went straight to a streaming site (Netflix), providing us with the perfect opportunity to put it to the group chat test. We watched it together (via Netflix Party - we have respected lockdown!) and it passed with flying colours! The chemistry and comedic timing between Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani are what keeps you glued to your (screens?) despite the craziness of the plot. Although the movie jumped right into its action/crime-fighting angle and we didn’t get to see much of our new fave couple, being an actual couple, two POC romantic leads are more than enough for us not to be mad!


Sade’s Pick!

Dating Around 



What: 

In each episode of flirtations and fails, one real-life single navigates five blind dates. The mission: Find one match worthy of a second date.


Why:

Don't be too quick to label Dating Around as ‘just another dating show’, as it adopts a format which allows us to watch each date unfold at the same time. This unique presentation enables us to form connections (and comparisons) with the daters - you’ll find yourself rooting for some and screaming at your TV for others. This show has a Made In Chelsea vibe to it but it’s also a very American version of First Dates - First Dates meets Made In Chelsea, the fusion you didn’t know that you needed.



‘For When You Just Want To Laugh Out Loud!’’ - the ULTIMATE feel good.


The High Note (Amazon Prime - you have to buy this I’m so sorry!)  



What?

A superstar singer and her overworked personal assistant are presented with a choice that could alter the course of their respective careers.


Why?

I remember reading an article where Tracee Ellis Ross discusses her hesitancy in singing because of her mother, Diana Ross’ legacy, and so to see her taking centre stage in this movie is so heart-warming and I felt like I was cheering her on the whole way. This film will not change your life, but the music is good (‘stop for a minute, stop for a minute’) and is definitely great paired with a takeaway (support local businesses xx)



‘The Tea, the Whole Tea and Nothing but the Tea’ - because we’re all FBI agents in our spare time.


Tai’s Pick!

Dead To Me (Netflix) TW: explicit language, murder, graphic scenes.



What?

A hotheaded widow searching for the hit-and-run driver who mowed down her husband befriends an eccentric optimist who isn’t quite what she seems.


Why?

I’m starting to think that I have a thing for toxic female friendships (Molly and Issa I’m looking at you), but there’s something so addictive about that dynamic - the friend that can simultaneously bring out the worst AND the best in you. Season 2 came out in late May and I watched it instantly despite having exams and I didn’t regret it all! Working well with the streaming format, each episode ends with a cliffhanger so you can’t help watching another, and then another, and then another….



Honourable Mentions - random but highly recommended.


Tai’s Pick!

Lemonade Dissect - Spotify

















What?

Dissect is a serialized music podcast (bear with me) that examines a single album per season. In each podcast episode, the host focuses on one song from the chosen album, ‘dissecting’ the music, lyrics, and themes.


Why?

I predict that this won’t be the last time I speak about Beyonce on this blog, and rightly so because Lemonade is a creative masterpiece. I think we all know Beyonce can SANG and so I particularly like this series as it highlights Beyonce, the multi-hyphenate, exploring the historical importance of the visuals of the album as well as her artistic influences. The series is still ongoing and I’ve particularly enjoyed ‘Hold Up’ and ‘Sorry’, as the songs’ trajectory from demo to completion is unpacked, reminding us (in case we forgot) that Beyonce is a genius.


Sade’s Pick!

Bojack Horseman (Netflix) TW: Addiction, Sexual scenes and references, Depression, Dark Humor, Sexism



What?

BoJack Horseman, a previously loved celebrity and star of 90s sitcom ‘Horsin Around’, is now a washed-up addict who is obsessed with dwelling on his life twenty years prior. His journey of self-help and new career ventures bring on numerous adventures that leave BoJack questioning if his life has meaning. This show features anthropomorphic characters with the animal and humans living amongst each other and engaging in human-style relationships while maintaining their animal characteristics.


Why?

If you’re looking for escapism, then Bojack Horseman is the show for you. Personally, I find that watching animals take on human-like problems removes me from any problems that I have in reality.  Despite the elements of realism, the show is mostly ridiculous as the characters are indeed animals. The show comments on many relevant issues such as toxic masculinity, the slow decline of child stars, celebrity culture and addiction, feminism and perceptions of feminists and expectations of adulthood and motherhood, to name a few. Anthropomorphic cartons are a favourite of mine, I especially find it interesting that the use of animals removes the need for visual indicators of race in the characters.


Tai’s Pick!

Afterlife (Netflix) TW: mention of suicide, explicit language, terminal illness, fatphobia.



What?

After Life follows Tony, whose life is turned upside down after his wife dies from breast cancer. He contemplates suicide but instead decides to live long enough to punish the world for his wife's death by saying and doing whatever he wants. Although he thinks of this as his ‘superpower’, his plan is undermined when everyone around him tries to make him a better person. The show is set in the fictional town of Tambury, where Tony works as a journalist at the local free newspaper, the Tambury Gazette.


Why?

I started watching the second season of After Life just as lockdown was announced and I think the reality that we were in this for the long haul started to sink in. Maybe a strange show to choose in these circumstances, but I think I saw parallels with Tony’s experience of grief and my own ‘grief’ at realising that I wouldn’t be able to see my friends or family, end my degree the way I hoped, and a whole bunch of other things. So seeing Tony somewhat making peace with his lived reality, focusing on the little things he could do to improve the lives of those around him and also himself, gave me a different lens in which to see lockdown through, one that focused more on what I have, rather than what I had lost. It’s also really funny lol!


Tai’s Pick!

A Midsummer’s Night Dream (NT Live on Youtube)



What?

A feuding fairy King and Queen of the forest cross paths with four runaway lovers and a troupe of actors trying to rehearse a play. As their dispute grows, the magical royal couple meddles with mortal lives leading to love triangles, mistaken identities and transformations… with hilarious, but dark consequences. 


Why?

I am all for new approaches to traditional texts, bringing them into the 21st century and this production did an incredible job with that. The main difference with this play was that lines traditionally delivered by King Oberon (Oliver Chris) were given to Queen Titania (Gwendoline Christie), meaning that Oberon falls in love with Bottom (Hameed Animashaun), which unleashed a ridiculous amount of comedic potential.  I was laughing so much during this for many reasons but I would definitely say Animashaun was the stand-out performer, particularly in a dance sequence of Beyonce’s Love On Top with the enamoured King.  Great casting all around and I also really need to know Christie’s skincare regime as she was glowing as Queen of the Faeries.


That’s it from us! July’s lowdown of Film, TV and Theatre picks has hopefully demonstrated that despite the mass halting of production, there is still a lot of content out there to make you laugh, cry and also give you a lot to think about. Let us know what you think about our July recommendations in the comments. We’d also love to know what you’ve been watching over the last month, so don’t hesitate to shout us on any of Onyx’s platforms! Happy watching and see you next month for our August edition!




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