3 Spirituality-Tinged Black Films That Stuck With Me Forever
Photo Credit: Trimark Pictures

3 Spirituality-Tinged Black Films That Stuck With Me Forever

I’m not sure if I was spiritually cognizant enough to digest these films, but that didn’t stop me from indulging in them.

Eve’s Bayou, Beloved and Their Eyes Were Watching God were probably films I should have actually watched now at this point in my life. I would have appreciated their context more and not been as perplexed as I was when I watched them, but regardless, they had a huge impact on me.

1. Eve’s Bayou

Eve’s Bayou was the first movie I can recall where voodoo and its practice were introduced to me. Centering on the quest of a child trying to right the wrongs of her father (his infidelity and alleged molestation of his other daughter) troubled me. After Roz receives a reading by Elzora, I was so fearful of chicken bones and what future they may tell me that I did not eat bone-in chicken for a while. I also made sure to leave my grooming utensils free of my hair. Aunt Mozelle’s hoodoo practices were also another factor that left me at a quandary, but it would be Eve’s gift of sight that piqued my interest. Could dreams really be that significant or were they [dreams] figments of our imagination during our subconscious state? Was Aunt Mozelle cursed as the Black Widow? Was Cisely possessed when she kissed her father? Were the events leading up to Matty Mereaux’s husband, Lenny, killing Dr. Louis the intentional actions of a spell or were those consequences of a brazen affair? The movie was a bit too much for me to process at the time. However, the movie and its ties to African/Caribbean spirituality embedded themselves in my memory.

2. Beloved

I remember hearing Oprah rave about the book Beloved and announcing there would be a movie based on it. My mother made plans for opening day. I was no way involved in those plans, but my mother was on pickup/drop-off duty with me. So instead of me being in school a full day which would mean my mother would miss her matinee showing, she scooped me early. By default, I had to watch Beloved. For the longest, I wished my mom would have been late picking me up rather than me watch that movie. The movie creeped me out.

Sethe is haunted by past life as a slave. Granted she was raped by the school teacher’s nephew and slits her fourth child throat to spare her of a life of abuse as a slave. I followed along that the Poltergeist possessed the home and drove off her two boys. What I couldn’t wrap my head around was Beloved and the Poltergeist’s leaving. Beloved emerges from a swamp riddled with insects. Was she the Poltergeist in human form now? At the time I couldn’t tell if insects were crawling on Beloved because of proximity to the swamp or were these insects eating her rotten flesh because she was deceased. Denver’s affection towards Beloved’s despite finding out she was Sethe’s allegedly deceased daughter bewildered me. Sethe openness to a very manipulative yet cognitive delayed individual worried me throughout the movie. However, it would be Beloved telling Paul D to “touch her on the inside part,” that let me know I was over it. By the time the church women came to exorcise the house, I wanted to throw the entire movie away. Too late saints. The demon raped a man, sucking the life out of her mother and has her poor sister, Denver, contemplating if life is really worth all of this.

3. Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God is the only movie I followed the closest although parts made me question things. Janie’s luck with her husbands can be summarized in her quest to find love as she leaves her former life behind. Her arrangement with Joe falls through because of his jealousy. Logan wants her to labor as hard as he does and when she finally finds love in Tea Cake, a bite from a rabid dog during the flood destroys it. Rabies engulfs his mind. Janie kills Tea Cake who was trying to kill her. She leaves town after she is exonerated in Tea Cake’s murder.

What I understand now:

As a more mindful adult, I can now understand the implications of each movie. Eve’s Bayou introduced African/Caribbean spirituality to me. It showed similarities between the accepted religion with the gift of sight, which is widely accepted as the gift of prophecy in the Christian sector. It also played around with intentions. Eve’s intentions to correct her father dances throughout the film.

Beloved was a prime example of allowing the past to hunt us and not being able to practice nonattachment to things or people. Sethe was attached to her past life. She let trauma place her in bondage. When Sethe’s biggest fear manifests as a parasitic demon from her past, Sethe worships Beloved feeding into her own demise.

Their Eyes Were Watching God toyed with idea of a white savior and how Black people looked to heaven as a place of refuge. It also showed how Blacks internalized hate for themselves. Janie was admired because she had “white features”. The parallel between religion and suffering emerges as a theme as well. There could be no paradise on the other side if there wasn’t any suffering on this side. I also felt like Janie’s suffering with husbands was caused by her hope in them being able to save her from a loveless life. Each husband is taken away from her. It was like a reminder that the Highest is a jealous God.

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

© 2022 Shadow & Act. All rights reserved.