While the issue of diversity in Hollywood has only taken precedence relatively recently, the presence of diversity on screen has long been overshadowed by films featuring white actors. With this lack of diversity receiving significant attention, it’s important to recognize films that broke free from this stigma, notably those that celebrated the accomplishments — and emphasized the struggles — of diverse communities in America.
This week, The Daily Texan takes a look back at five films that achieved this.
“César Chávez” (2014)
This biopic centered on civil rights activist César Chávez excels as a depiction of the hardships endured by Latino farmworkers. Produced and directed by Diego Luna, “César Chávez” tells the story behind the founding of the United Farm Workers, a labor union committed to improving wages and working conditions for its members. Luna’s emphasis on the various consequences of Chávez’s efforts — from inflated racism to acts of police brutality — helps showcase the struggles of minorities seeking fair treatment. Aided by its stellar performances and engaging screenplay, “César Chávez” triumphs as a testament to the strength and spirit of America’s Latino community.
Based on the novel by Colm Tóibín, “Brooklyn” tells the story of a romance that buds between Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), an Irish immigrant, and Tony (Emory Cohen), a New Yorker of Italian descent. When tragedy strikes at home, Eilis returns to support her struggling mother, only to catch the eye of Jim (Domhnall Gleeson), a wealthy Irishman, leaving her to debate between staying or returning to New York. Fueled by strong performances and remarkable screenwriting, the film celebrates Irish culture while recognizing the emotional and financial struggles experienced by immigrants, leaving viewers with a unique perspective on twentieth century immigration to America.
Helmed by award-winning director Paul Haggis, “Crash” depicts in complexity the racial tension of racial tension in 21st century America. Layered with interwoven plots, “Crash” negates the notion that racism ceases to be an issue by illustrating its impact today. Boasting a diverse ensemble cast including Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle and Matt Dillon, the film conveys characters as either victims or culprits of discrimination, breathing new life into the drama while expanding on-screen diversity.
“The Help” (2011)
This vibrant sleeper hit that garnered immense critical acclaim stands as a testament to the power of collective action and courage. Based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett, “The Help” illustrates the struggles faced by African-American maids during the tumultuous civil rights era. Told through the lives of various women, the film immerses viewers in the injustice experienced by people of color, primarily at the hands of their racist white employers. Their decision to unite against overt oppression becomes an anthem for justice that transcends the period in which the events transpire, encouraging viewers to fight for integrity while honoring the sacrifices of off-screen figures who did.
Based on the groundbreaking musical by Jonathan Larson, “Rent” offers a glimpse into the lives of several New York City Bohemians struggling to survive the onset of gentrification. Their concurrent battles with poverty, AIDS and homophobia unfold over the course of this vibrant celebration of love. Featuring a sensational ensemble cast that includes Rosario Dawson and Idina Menzel, “Rent” manages to hit a high note with viewers from all walks of life, showcasing the beauty of diversity in an environment that seems inclined to sequester it.