BAM’s ‘Fight the Power’ spotlights can’t-miss black hero films

The retrospective includes mainstream hits, such as “Men in Black,” as well as lesser-known gems, including “Buck and the Preacher.”

With anticipation for the upcoming release of “Black Panther” now in overdrive, BAM has programmed the perfect retrospective for the moment in “Fight the Power: Black Superheroes.”

Beginning Friday, it’s a sweeping and comprehensive survey of a robust assortment of movies featuring powerful black heroes, from the most important films of the blaxploitation era that changed everything to ’90s highlights, little-seen discoveries and at least one enormous disaster.

These are some of the many noteworthy movies programmed for the festival, which runs through Feb. 18, two days after “Black Panther” hits theaters.

‘Cleopatra Jones’

Tamara Dobson is the powerful title character, advertised as “6 feet 2 inches of dynamite,” a special agent going after Shelley Winters’ drug lord Mommy, in this trailblazing 1973 classic.

‘Buck and the Preacher’

There’s a decent chance you’re unfamiliar with this Western directed by and starring Sidney Poitier, alongside Harry Belafonte, but it’s a noteworthy and early corrective (released in 1972) to a history of whitewashing in the big-screen depiction of the frontier experience.

‘Men in Black’

On the other hand, you’ve probably seen this movie at least a half dozen times. But the original 1998 Will Smith-Tommy Lee Jones extraterrestrial megahit is smart and fun, the perfect buddy comedy and a welcome relic of a time where Smith was truly at the height of his charismatic powers.

‘Strange Days’

Kathryn Bigelow’s 1995 sci-fi opus stars Angela Bassett opposite Ralph Fiennes in a trippy story about a murder investigation set at the end of the millennium. It’s one of many movies to have flopped badly at the box office and then earn a reconsideration in the ensuing years.

‘Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai’

This is one of the most entrancing and mysterious of all Jim Jarmusch movies, in which Forest Whitaker plays a Zen samurai hit man and RZA provides the score.


This is the enormous disaster referenced earlier. The Halle Berry vehicle is as big of a mess as its reputation would have you believe, but, as the programmers point out in their official notes attached to the program, it’s “the rare $100 million studio spectacle built around a tale of black female empowerment.”

If you go

Fight the Power: Black Superheroes on Film runs at BAM Feb. 2-18. For a full schedule of screenings, go to

Robert Levin