Black Lives Matter on Screen: Trauma of Witnessing Police Brutality in Contemporary American Cinema

Małgorzata Mączko


In the years following the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, American cinema was looking for a way to appropriately address the issue of police brutality against people of color. Filmmakers, often inspired by real-life events, began developing stories focused on the trauma of witnessing lethal police violence. Three films released in 2018 – Blindspotting (dir. Carlos López Estrada), Monsters and Men (dir. Reinaldo Marcus Green) and The Hate U Give (dir. George Tillman Jr.)– emphasize how the aftermath of such experiences affects young people of color and their communities. This article aims to explore the role of witness testimony in trauma-centered narratives and examine how the contemporary American cinema visualizes racial trauma. To achieve that, the films will be analyzed within the context of trauma studies, including theories regarding both individual and cultural trauma. Moreover, studies focused on the socialization of Black children will help demonstrate the transgenerational impact of trauma. All three films share common motifs: they represent the psychosomatic aspects of trauma through similar cinematic techniques and see value in witness testimony, even if it requires personal sacrifices from the protagonists. They also portray parents’ worry about their children’s future within a prejudiced system and the struggle to prepare them for it. All these issues have been previously addressed in the public and academic discourse and are now being reflected in cinema. Film proves to be a suitable medium for representing trauma of witnessing police brutality and cinema will most likely remain a vital part of the debate about dismantling racist systems for years to come.


American cinema, Black Lives Matter, police brutality, trauma, witnessing

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Data publikacji: 2021-10-10 16:24:55
Data złożenia artykułu: 2021-04-25 18:19:12


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