25 Black art documentaries you need to watch

Last February, Lachelle Chyrsanne compiled a list of 25 must watch Black art documentaries.

From the list, I’ve only seen 5:

  1. Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest (2011)
  2. Black Is the Color: A History of African American Art (2017)
  3. I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
  4. Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (2010)
  5. Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019)

There’s no time limit on watching these so I’ll add them to my ever-growing Letterboxd watchlist. The documentaries I have watched were very powerful and worth your time and investment.

See also: James Baldwin on the meaning of liberty, Toni Morrison on Jazz, and Jean-Michel Basquiat on how to be an artist.

20th Century Flicks: the last video rental shop

Nestled in an alleyway in Bristol is 20th Century Flicks, the world’s last video rental shop. Arthur Cauty directed a short documentary film about the shop, which has been open since 1982, featuring the owners and its employees talking about what it means to them and the community.

It’s an ode to the video shop experience and a bygone way of watching movies. With studios like Disney launching their own streaming services and joining industry kingpins such as Netflix and Hulu, we have an almost endless flow of entertainment available at the click of a button. It’s amazing to me that a little independent video store can survive the Netflix cull and even outlive Blockbuster. Drop into the shop next time you’re in Bristol for a dose of movie nostalgia, have a chat about film and go home with a VHS rarity and a bag of popcorn.

And if you’re wondering how 20th Century Flicks is doing during the pandemic, the shop isn’t open but a reduced service is underway:

We are currently on lockdown to keep the shop, staff and stock healthy. We are still able to post movies out to you (3 at a time for £12) including a clean prepaid envelope to return them. We’d like them back a couple of weeks after you’ve received them. For details and instructions, click here!

Imagine getting a late fee in 2020 from the oldest video rental shop in the world. I’d be so embarrassed.

Stream the documentary below and for more VHS nostalgia, check out the guy who made a fake video store in his basement.

The Last Video Store | a documentary on the World's oldest VHS & DVD rental store

(via Kottke.org)

8 Keith Haring Documentaries to Watch on YouTube

Keith Haring in his Pop Shop

Modern art rabbit holes are the best kind to fall down.

Sure, there’s a lot of pretentiousness in the field and dominated by white men both at the canvas and observing it for the media. But there’s a unique artist for everyone. Someone that catches you off guard with their interpretation of the world, telling a story that means something to you.

And for me, Keith Haring is one of those artists. Born on 4th May 1958, Haring’s work became synonymous with New York City and its bustling subways, depicting striking images of human figures, dogs, and all kinds of manifested emotions.

As his popularity grew, so did the themes behind them. He created large scale murals as forms of activism for AIDS awareness and sexuality. His work never demeaned or alienated those who observed. They were fun and full of energy and, most of all, memorable. You know when seen a Keith Haring piece.

So with that, I’ve made a YouTube playlist of 8 Keith Haring documentaries to watch at your leisure. Enjoy!

Update: 2 of the videos were made private so only 6 are available to view.

Playlist: Keith Haring Documentaries

1. Drawing the line: a portrait of Keith Haring

This documentary was produced by Elisabeth Aubert in conjunction with Biografilm.

Keith Haring’s artistry moved went from New York subway graffiti to the art galleries and walls of the rich and famous. He was often likened to Andy Warhol (much like his best friend Jean-Michel Basquiat) but I feel that diminished his individuality and personal merit.

He broke boundaries with his work as a form of activism during the AIDS epidemic, which he sadly died from in 1990.

2. The Universe of Keith Haring

The strapline for this documentary is simply “a portrait of New York artist Keith Haring” but this picture paints a lot more than 1,000 words.

Christina Clausen directed the film and gave glimpses into his life, from his humble beginnings in Pennsylvania to pop culture icon. The film also stars Yoko Ono, Fab 5 Freddy, and David LaChapelle.

3. Keith Haring – The Message

French fashion designer Maripol presented his documentary (English dub and French subs). Split into episodes, The Message looked at the different ways Haring’s work immersed itself into pop culture during the 80s.

4. Discover the King of Street Art: Keith Haring

Discover the King of Street Art will appeal to fans of mini-documentaries. This one is a 4-minute journey through his life and features some of his most famous pieces, from subway walls to the Berlin Wall (and Grace Jones).

5. Keith Haring Uncovered

The other documentaries in the list gave overviews of Haring’s life but Keith Haring Uncovered looks at his visit to Australia in 1984 when he created a mural in Collingwood, Melbourne. What makes this mural special is its rarity – there are only 31 known Haring murals “in the wild” so to speak.

6. From the archives: Keith Haring was here

This is an archived news story rather than a doc but it’s still pretty cool. Charles Osgood investigated on Haring’s chalk drawings in New York subways that often got him in trouble with the law. Spoilsports.

7. Mr. Guera Reads …Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing

If the children are our future, they ought to know about Haring too. And this video does exactly that. Mr Guera is an illustrator who makes educational trading cards called Buzu Trading Cards® and in this, he did a reading of Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing by Kay A Haring, Keith’s younger sister.

8. Intro to Keith Haring

The final video splices together footage from other documentaries as an educational aid, including the semiotic nature of his work. Perfect for students of any age.

Haring related: Keith Haring’s personal art collection to be auctioned

Rent this Mies van der Rohe documentary on Vimeo

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

I love a bit of modernist architecture and my favourite building is the Barcelona Pavilion in Barcelona. I loved it before I knew who the architect was but once I did, my eyes were opened to some of the greatest modern buildings ever constructed. And they were thanks to Mies van der Rohe.

Mies wasn’t the only modernist architect making waves at home and abroad but he was arguably the most influential. Buildings like the Seagram Building, Farnsworth House, 860–880 Lake Shore Drive, and the National Gallery in Berlin are referenced decades after completion and he gave us two famous quotes (although they didn’t originate from him):

In the documentary, Mies, a number of architects review his works alongside footage of Mies explaining his thought processes and philosophies. You can rent the documentary on Vimeo for £4.99. This gives you 48 hours to stream it on your desktop as well as iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast.

Stream the trailer below.

The Cultural Legacy of the Russian Revolution (BBC Audio Doc)

If you’re foolish enough to succumb to the whims of the media, you’d think Jeremy Corbyn is attempting to paint Downing Street a bright shade of Soviet red. He may want a revolution but not in the way Russia experienced in 1917. In this BBC World Service radio documentary, special guests depict the cultural influences of the Russian Revolution.

From Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago to the politics of Lenin and Trotsky, it all comes as part of the Hope, Tragedy, Myths exhibition at the British Library in London. What did it mean to be part of the early days of the Revolution?

And what about the subsequent decades of communism and the hostility that came with it? A range of voices from Uzbekistan, Syria, and Iceland tell their respective stories about the cultural legacy left behind.

You can listen to the documentary on the BBC Sounds website (sign-in required).