From Real Housewives to lost 80s Brazilian classics, the filmmaker and Beyoncé collaborator is seeking wisdom of many kinds in quarantine
Every Friday, Screen Time taps your favourite cult and on-the-rise directors to share their watchlists with Dazed.
“Needless to say, I like to watch truthful and human stories in quarantine,” says Melina Matsoukas. Her curated list, below, speaks to a director whose vision is consistently rooted in recognising the scope and scale of a system’s inequalities, and being unafraid to do the work to uproot them.
At the start of the year, 2020 was shaping up to be a milestone one for the 39-year-old – after her groundbreaking work directing some of Beyoncé’s most arresting images in Formation (2016), Matsoukas made her feature debut with the equally charged Queen & Slim (2019), which released in the UK at the start of the year. A provocative take on the traditional lovers-on-the-run roadtrip film starring Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith, the film spoke truth to the bearing of police brutality upon young black American lives. But with any future projects on pause, Matsoukas is using her time at home in LA to dig deeper into the themes that have made her imagemaking so indelible – and find a little time to watch Real Housewives over Zoom, of course.
THE THERAPY FILM
Melina Matsoukas: Rockers is one of my favourite films. It features one of the most interesting visual and sonic times in history – 1970s Jamaica – and includes some of the most incredible artists showing off their acting abilities. Its authenticity has inspired me throughout my career, as a lesson in music, colour theory, wardrobe, and production design as forms of storytelling. It’s a truly healing film for me and is always something I return to in order to feel inspired. It’s available on Apple TV.
THE NEW OBSESSION
Melina Matsoukas: My friend recommended I watch the Brazilian film Pixote on the Criterion Channel app (which has now become my new favorite streaming discovery!). It’s a tough watch as it follows a child navigating the realities of prison and the streets of São Paulo and involves violence, rape, prostitution, drugs. It stays with you, as it feels so relevant to now, (getting) into corruption, racism, and the discrepancies between the haves and the have nots. I see so many parallels to how we live – how so many children become victims of our broken societies, and are dismissed and forgotten as humans.
THE TELEVISION SERIES
THE WIRE (2002-08), THE INNOCENCE FILES (2020)
Melina Matsoukas: I had to choose two here. My favorite series ever is The Wire, which I rewatched during quarantine. It’s available on HBO, and is truly an anatomy lesson in the dysfunction of our society. It’s an incredible drama that is so far ahead of its time, and offers a three-dimensional view of all the facets of our system – rooted in incredible characters and storytelling.
The new series I discovered was The Innocence Files (Netflix) which delves into the work of the Innocence Project and their dedication to exonerate those who have been wrongfully imprisoned. It’s a documentary series that follows the cases of eight innocent people who spent so much of their lives imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit, but who are victims of our racist and unjust society. It is a thrilling watch, as you see these people attain their freedom, but is also infuriating because there are no repercussions for the criminals who took so much of their lives from them. Needless to say, I like to watch truthful and human stories in quarantine.
THE DEEP CUT
DICK GREGORY: WISDOM (2015)
Melina Matsoukas: My man loves to watch YouTube, which I honestly am not able to navigate well. He gets most of his news and information from YouTube videos and makes me watch all these obscure videos with him, which is mostly extremely annoying (because the quality is not always great) but, admittedly, eye-opening. We watched Dick Gregory: Wisdom which is two hours of one of my favorite entertainers and activists essentially talking shit and dropping gems on pretty much every subject you can imagine. I also love that when people get older, they really lose any semblance of giving a fuck and become refreshingly unfiltered. If you need some wisdom from an elder while you are locked in your homes, I recommend it greatly.
THE UNEXPECTED PLEASURE
THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ATLANTA (2008-present)
Melina Matsoukas: The Real Housewives of Atlanta. This is the one reality show I must watch and have always watched. I’m a fan. My friends and I love to watch together and talk about these women as if we know them, and comment on all their interactions. It’s become a quarantine tradition to watch the show together on Zoom and talk shit as it plays. It’s been a really beautiful way to connect with my own friends.
Queen & Slim is available to stream digitally on Amazon Prime in the UK from May 25