Watch They've Gotta Have Us
- 1 Season
They've Gotta Have Us is a visually stunning three-part documentary series directed and presented by Simon Frederick that explores the history and evolution of black cinema and its influence on the entertainment industry. It was first aired on BBC Two in the United Kingdom in 2018.
The show features extensive interviews with some of the biggest stars of contemporary black cinema, including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, and Samuel L. Jackson, and also gives a voice to lesser-known actors, writers, and directors who have struggled to find recognition in a predominantly white industry. The series is constructed around the experiences and opinions of these figures, whose personal insights and reflections provide a commentary on the challenges and opportunities facing black creators in modern cinema.
The first episode, The Past is Present, focuses on the history of black cinema, from the earliest movies of the silent era to the contemporary blockbuster hits of today. Using rare archival footage, the series examines the ways in which black actors were first represented on screen, and how these representations have evolved over time to reflect changing social and political contexts. Interviews with filmmakers such as Spike Lee and John Singleton, as well as historians and critics, add a deeper level of analysis and context to the discussion.
The second episode, A Way with Words, explores the role of the writer in the creation of black cinema. It looks at the groundbreaking work of writers such as Lonne Elder III, who wrote the screenplay for Sounder, and the influence of the Black Arts Movement on black cinema in the 1960s and 70s. It also examines the challenges faced by writers in the industry today, particularly in terms of representation, and features interviews with screenwriters such as Ryan Coogler and Julie Dash.
The final episode, No Limits, looks at the current state of black cinema and considers the future of the industry. It features interviews with actors including David Oyelowo and Whoopi Goldberg, who discuss their experiences of being black in Hollywood, as well as with up-and-coming talent such as Lena Waithe and Issa Rae. The episode also examines the ways in which black cinema is breaking down barriers in terms of genre, with black creators making waves in everything from horror to romantic comedies.
Throughout the series, Frederick creates a powerful visual narrative that highlights the richness and diversity of black cinema. From sweeping panoramic shots of the Hollywood hills to gritty behind-the-scenes footage of independent productions, the show presents a stunning array of images that bring the stories and experiences of black creatives to vivid life.
Overall, They've Gotta Have Us is a timely and important exploration of the history and future of black cinema. By foregrounding the perspectives of black creatives themselves, the series provides a nuanced and authoritative account of an industry that has too often excluded or marginalized black voices. The show is a must-watch for anyone interested in film history, popular culture, or social justice.