In this week’s What To Watch While Staying Inside, the focus is on #BlackAF, an eight-episode Netflix original about a black family navigating new wealth in a predominantly white-centred Hollywood neighbourhood.
Created by Kenya Barris, best known for his work as a producer and writer background on Black-ish (2014) and Girls Trip (2017), along with co-creating America’s Next Top Model (2003), #BlackAF looks at the burdens, anxieties, and humour of Kenya (Barris), a producer and Joya (Rashida Jones), a lawyer. The two fulltime working black parents with six children rarely are on the same page, yet will do whatever it takes to give their children a good life. The show is filmed through a documentary lens for the second eldest daughter, Drea Barris’ (Iman Benson) submission to NYU’s film program. Drea’s documentary includes a confessional, just like all good reality shows. The entire family is offered the opportunity to express real emotions in the confessional throughout the series, allowing for an unfiltered version of everyone.
Starting from the moment the #BlackAF theme song ‘Win’ By EarthGang kicks in, the unity of black power and voice is a powerful force. The visuals of the intro display the greatest black American leaders of all time: Barrack Obama. Martin Luther King Jr. Malcom X. Mae Carol Jemison.
While the discussion of race is a constant part of #BlackAF, I found one of the most compelling aspects of the show was Drea’s relationship with her older sister Chloe (Genneya Walton). Chloe, just like most older sisters in their teenage years isn’t fond of engagement with her younger sister. Drea often is seen as the older of the two because she is more responsible and less impulsive. Watching the dynamic between the two is a definite highlight of the series.
Throughout #BlackAF there are moments of humour, humbleness, and angst. The one thing I would’ve liked to have seen more of is establishing the siblings and their personalities; I didn’t get the essence of each character. I do realize within eight episodes there may not be enough time to cultivate this understanding of who each child was. Ultimately, I haven’t seen a Netflix original about a black family going through the trials in Hollywood, making #BlackAF fresh and exciting. It also left me wondering the answer to one big question: will Drea get into NYU’s film program with this documentary?