Historical film celebrates black heritage month

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The 2017 film focuses primarily on the trial of Joseph Spell and Thurgood Marshall's attempts to prove his innocence ("Marshall," upload.wikimedia.org)

UNC’s International Film Series collaborated with the Marcus Garvey Cultural Center on Thursday to celebrate Black Heritage Month with a screening of the 2017 film “Marshall.”

The film centers on Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American supreme court justice played by Chadwick Boseman, and one of his career-defining cases. As young Marshall travels the United States working as a lawyer for the NAACP, he runs into one of his most difficult cases in Connecticut when Eleanor Strubing, played by Kate Hudson, accusers her black chauffeur Joseph Spell, played by Sterling K. Brown, of sexual assault and attempted murder. Marshall enlists the help of Sam Friedman, a local Jewish lawyer played by Josh Gad, where the two make an unlikely team in building up a defense case for Spell.

Historical dramas often go under people’s radar as a stiff and serious film, but “Marshall” breathes life into a history filled with strife and revolution. The film provides a tactful amount of comedy along the drama this historical event. “Marshall” is not afraid to tackle the racial and anti-Semitic implications of this story. But the film uses its humor to help digest the reality of the past as well as to create a greater bond with these historical figures. Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of Thurgood Marshall transforms this historical figure into someone inspiring, a daring lawyer who is willing to take risks for his race.

Talia Carroll, the director of Marcus Garvey Cultural Center, helped with this collaboration as the center is working on several other Black Heritage Month events.

“I hadn’t seen the film before, so I wanted to come with fresh eyes,” Carroll said. “I think when I am able to watch historical films like this, it reminds me of all the great work of past leaders and giants, especially my ancestors, who have done such phenomenal work to ensure that myself and students who look like me and identify as black, African American or any intersections of black, that they can do powerful and wonderful things too. I am always inspired when I am able to reflect on all the things like what Thurgood Marshall did. I am feeling very inspired and hopeful for the future.”

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Langston Mayo, a junior student director for UNC’s International Film Series agreed that this connection with history was needed.

“Being Black History Month, we just want to make sure that we were hitting something that was culturally aware,” Mayo said. “Working with Talia and Marcus Garvey, we figured with the national theme being ‘Times of War,’ that Thurgood Marshall was someone we could touch on. That people maybe heard the name before, but are definitely not familiar with. This is the perfect time to show a film that just came out last year. . .I think it’s good representation.”

Alexis McCowan, the cultural activities coordinator for the MGCC, helped to coordinate this collaboration with IFS. She shared similar sentiments with Carroll about representation.

“As someone who identifies with the Black diaspora, I think it is very important for us to remember those who did such incredible things in our past in order to look forward and look towards the future and envision ourselves in the future,” McCowan said. “I think movies such as ‘Marshall’ and all the events that we are having for Black Heritage Month are absolutely necessary in order to celebrate, advocate and educate everyone about what’s going on with us.”

The Marcus Garvey Cultural Center celebrated its 35th anniversary on Feb 1 with an “extravaganza,” as McCowan said. The center hosted a banquet with presentations as well as a lunch and open house. Future events for the center include a Soul Food Night at 7 p.m. tonight and a Movie Night Out to see the upcoming film “Black Panther” at the Greeley Cinemark Movie Theater on Feb 16. 

Future IFS showings can be found on their website. Other Black Heritage Month events can be found on the MGCC website.

International Film Series: http://www.unco.edu/international-film-series/

Marcus Garvey Cultural Center: http://www.unco.edu/marcus-garvey-cultural-center/

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