Film Studies Pass: Anti-Black Nightmares 15

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From the archive

This film was last shown on 29 November 2023

Recent years have seen a revitalization in Black Horror films and series, from Get Out (2017) and Lovecraft Country (2020) to His House (2020) and The Blackening (2023). These films are canny interventions into a contemporary culture plagued by anti-Black rhetoric and politics. Yet to really understand the innovation and impetus of these films, we need to consider the racial dynamics in Horror films from earlier generations, as well as the ways writers and directors have pushed back against these representational politics

As early as 1919, Black filmmakers such as Oscar Micheaux were presenting counternarratives to the visions of Black monstrosity in films like D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, a film notable not just for its technological innovations, but for its socio-political ramifications given it was the first film ever screened in the White House. The Blackening may quip, “We can’t all die first”, but that does not actually signify a humane representation of Black peoples. As we shall see, Griffith’s filmic descendants have continued to render Black people monstrous for generations. But that doesn’t mean Black people have to silently suffer such destructive misrepresentation. Filmmakers have long used Horror to push back, revealing the actual horror behind being Black in America and the real monster(s) at its source.

As such, the first half of this course will examine the politics of anti-Blackness in US Horror film throughout the twentieth century to consider how seemingly evolving narratives persistently reproduce the same racial ideologies. We will then shift to explore films which speak back to those representational politics to define how anti-Blackness, and the population that invests in it, is itself the nightmare. While the films presented as part of this series all stem from the US, we will consider how their politics also resonate in the UK during similar eras. In doing so, we will continually tie the discussed films to the socio-political events of their era.

Dr. Maisha Wester (she/her). Global Professor in the School of English. University of Sheffield.


Wed 11 Oct - 6.30pm - White Zombie

Wed 25 Oct - 6.30pm - Candyman

Wed 8 Nov - 6.30pm - Night of the Living Dead

Wed 22 Nov - 6.30pm - Get Out


Wed 18 Oct - 6.30pm - Jim Crow Terrors

Wed 1 Nov - 6.30pm - Sympathy for the Devil

Wed 15 Nov - 6.30pm - Counterculture Nightmares

Wed 29 Nov - 6.30pm - Horror in the age of Black Lives Matter


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