‘Is That Black Enough For You?!?’ – Review (AFI)

Is That Black Enough For You?!? is one of the best documentaries on film of the last decade. Mitchell’s film serves not only as a history guide of Black cinema but also a love letter to cinema.

Elvis Mitchell is a legendary cultural critic, curator, film scholar and now director. Is That Black Enough For You?!? is must see documentary for any film lover. Mitchell guides the audience through Black cinema in the late 60s through late 70s through film clips, archival footage, incredible talking head interviews, and expert narration. 

Mitchell enters the film-making world with such an impressive documentary that will surely become a staple in all cinephiles’ lineups. Is That Black Enough For You?!? feels conversational, yet still teaches its audience so much about the time period it’s covering. Mitchell expertly blends together his personal experiences of going to the cinema with the history of Black cinema. The film’s runtime flies by as Mitchell’s excitement is used to always paint the film as a celebration of Black cinema and creative energy. 

While the film mostly focuses on the decade of 1968 through 1978, Is That Black Enough For You?!? does jump back to the start of seeing Black artists on screen and behind the camera. Mitchell discusses the hurtful Mammy and butler stereotypes that were seen as the only entry point for Black performers in the early era of Hollywood. This is followed up with an interview with Harry Belafonte detailing the types of roles he would pass on in the later decades that Sidney Poitier would take on. Belafonte gives the most memorable quotes of the film while discussing leaving the business for a time rather than taking on roles that were demeaning. While Poitier is not in the film, his presence is still felt. 

Is That Black Enough For You?!? assembles some of the best talking heads in any documentary this year in addition to Belafonte including Billy Dee Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Samuel L. Jackson, Suzanne De Passe, Charles Burnett, Margaret Avery, and Laurence Fishburne. Each give such memorable antidotes not only about their experiences within Hollywood, but also their cinema-going memories. The film does such an incredible job providing a historical timeline of Black cinema in Hollywood but also showing what it was like for industry players to experience it playing out in real time. 

Throughout the film, Is That Black Enough For You?!? revisits landmark films such as Super Fly and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and their impact throughout culture. When discussing Shaft, Mitchell makes an incredible connection between Gordon Park’s film’s opening to the later released Saturday Night Fever’s opening. The entire film expertly weaves each subject matter to its next point. Nothing is brought up in the film without effortlessly tying into the next subject. Is That Black Enough For You?!? creates the perfect thread to piece together all of the talking head interviews with the archival footage used with the clips from films. 

Is That Black Enough For You?!? is one of the best documentaries on film of the last decade. Mitchell’s film serves not only as a history guide of Black cinema, but also a love letter to cinema. Mitchell delivers a film that is both conversational and educational that comes together as a masterclass in cinema. 

Grade: B

Oscars Prospects:
Likely: None
Should be Considered: Best Film Editing, Best Documentary Feature

Where to Watch: In Select Theaters; Netflix

Kenzie Vanunu
she/her @kenzvanunu
Lives in LA with her husband, daughter and dog. Misses Arclight, loves iced vanilla coffees.
Favorite Director: Darren Aronofsky
Sign: Capricorn

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