National Cathedral event examines race in cinema from ‘Crash’ to ‘Black Panther’

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews National Cathedral event (Part 1)

Every year, the National Cathedral hosts an annual event exploring race in cinema.

A Long, Long Way: Conversations on Race and Film” returns at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

“The [title] is a quote from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said, ‘We may have come a long, long way when it comes to racial equity and justice, but we have a long, long way to go,'” Director for Programs Michelle Dibblee told WTOP. “This event asks this question of the films in our culture: Have we actually come a long, long way?”

The event will feature a virtual discussion by a group of panelists on Zoom:

  • The Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, Canon Theologian at National Cathedral
  • Greg Garrett, professor of English at Baylor University
  • Phillip Rodriguez, documentary filmmaker and founder of City Projects
  • Sonja D. Williams, educator and award-winning writer and producer

The event will include a panel discussion of three iconic movies.

“We’ll line it up with three clips, each movie will be introduced by one of our panelists, we’ll show a brief clip, then we’ll be off to the races,” Dibblee said.

First, the panel will explore Bogie’s scenes with Dooley Wilson in “Casablanca” (1942).

“For 1942, did this movie make any advancements?” Dibblee said. “Is there anything to celebrate about it? Should we be watching it from the perspective of a 1942 audience or from the perspective of a 2021 audience? What does it have to say? Should we be celebrating that relationship, should we be critiquing it, or do we need to do both?”

Second, the panel will explore post-9/11 Best Picture winner “Crash” (2004).

“‘Crash’ breaks us into a conversation that’s much more racial, much more multicultural and helps us unpack what stories are being told, how do we encounter them, how complex are the people engaged in those stories, how are they portrayed across those lines in the bizarre set of scenes that connect all these characters,” Dibblee said.

Finally, the panel will explore the superhero blockbuster “Black Panther” (2018).

“If you’re talking about the arc of filmmaking, you can’t not include ‘Black Panther,’ a film that centered on Black people, had roots in Africa, was written and directed by African Americans, lifted Chadwick Boseman as this extraordinary talent,” she said.

As expected from the National Cathedral, the panel also touches on religious themes.

“Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas is one of the theologians who’s joining us tonight and she’s asking us to think about films with a moral imagination,” Dibblee said. “What is it about film asking us to live our better lives? Can it do that? Does ‘Black Panther’ do that in the same ways that the church or God asks us to live our lives?”

Register to participate.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews National Cathedral event (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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