By Will Wright
Movies rarely solve problems or make things happen. Like the best relationships, the best films can push you to act for yourself sometimes. The story of someone you can relate to might help you to make a decision. Either Stella, Antwone, Malcolm or Chris Gardner could be that pushy friend whose story can motivate you. Why not have that motivation come from a film?
The Pursuit of Happyness. Photo © Columbia Pictures
When you think of year end traditions, one is to watch Christmas movies. It's pretty hard for the average person to avoid them. You can only watch so many Christmas movies before you've had your fill. Another natural tradition is to look back at the year and ask yourself if you're satisfied with your life at the close of December. African-American life is partly about perseverance. There are few African-American films that touch on the year end or New Year themes of reflection, renewal or redemption without referring to annual holidays.
There are several universal African-American films that address these themes and topics. They ignore holiday references. The Pursuit of Happyness, Antwone Fisher, How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Malcolm X are not natural choices. Their messages might set one's mind and spirit back on course for vital New Year's decisions. With these films it's convenient to relax, relate and refocus on how to end a year and set up for the new one. Filmgoers often relate to a character who reflects or speaks to their values. Each of these films is a surprise, with characters who touch on feelings about hope, change and happiness. That's what the New Year is all about, given the bounty of self-help books that are selling briskly.
You might be sick of the snow, the single-digit temperatures or news of regional ice crises. How Stella Got Her Groove Back might give you back your groove or at least jazz it up. In the 1998 film, Stella is a successful forty-something executive who must respond to the risks of a job change and an unconventional love. Watching Stella loosen up and give in to her groove could be a pleasant alternative to a real Jamaican getaway. While you think you're really distracting yourself, you could also reflect on what it'll take to make changes in your life, like Stella had to do. Job changes and reentry into the world of love are stressful.
Happiness is what it's all about. From 2006, The Pursuit of Happyness is a film about a newly single father who struggles his way through a drastic career change. He keeps his son first, with his eye on the proverbial brass ring too. He does so while raising his son in the way that his father didn't do for him. Many people will argue that it's a new classic in the African-American community. Viewers who are struggling financially, emotionally or spiritually can take heart from Happyness. Perhaps you don't lack heart, but you're almost out of hope or fresh energy that might let you turn a corner.
Change is necessary. Ebony, Time, Newsweek and other magazines will run their feature stories about the big achievers, the major leaders and the change makers. Those who are creative and buck "the system" are often especially fascinating. Malcolm X was a change maker. His story is about rebirth and renewal on many levels. Spike Lee's 1992 film is about the petty street criminal, Malcolm Little, who became a human rights activist and Muslim named Malcolm X. It's about growth and change. If you know you want to make changes, but you have been stalling or holding back, Malcolm X could stir you to act. There are few historical personalities who changed their lives more dramatically than he did.
Most people have families. There are always problems. Whether the holidays are spent with family can be a big decision. For some people the choice approaches a crisis proportion. Antwone Fisher is the 2002 film about healing and forgiveness. Antwone's story is about coming of age as he heals from childhood traumas with a psychologist's aide. It can be argued