My Favourite Inter-racial Movies

“Mississippi Masala” (1991) I like this one very much. It’s a beautiful story, makes you believe in love, and many say it’s the first time that Denzel Washington undressed and kissed in a movie! I put it at the top of my favorite inter-racial movies partly because it deals with a Ugandan family (and I’m Ugandan) – but mostly because it’s a relationship between a black man (me) and an Asian woman (my girlfriend) :-o The other thing is that the director, Mira Nair, founded a film training school in Uganda, www.maishafilmlab.org and through this school I learnt a lot about filmmaking.




It’s a while since I saw it, but after my experiences in Nepal, I’m curious to see it again. I wonder if Mira, an Indian, tackled the caste system in this film. I do not remember her mentioning caste in the film, in spite of the fact that Denzel played a toilet cleaner – and toilet cleaners are Dalits (untouchables) at the bottom of the caste system, the worst of the lot. They are called manual ‘scavengers’. Read more. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manual_scavenging and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11667355

I remember Meena’s (Sarita Choudhury) father expressing contempt towards Demetrius’s (Denzel Washington’s) job, but I don’t remember if they put it in the scheme of the caste system. Maybe Mira wanted it to be more of an inter-racial movie, without contaminating it with issues of caste, but I think since the girl’s family were of Indian origin, caste must have played a big role.

In December 2010, I ran into a Ugandan-Indian in Nepal. I asked her if she remembers issues of caste among the Indians in Uganda, but she did not for she left the country when she was very young, about eight years old, though she remembers not being allowed to enter the kitchen of a certain family, which is an indication that they practiced the system.

 “Jungle Fever” (1991) After “Do The Right Thing”, this is the only other film of Spike Lee that I totally enjoyed. I think he is at his best when he explores black vs white issues. He is basically a political artist, and he can’t entertain unless he puts in something about race relations in his movies. Some of his films, like The Inside Man, were great, but I wouldn’t watch them twice.
Jungle Fever is hot, steamy, and very provocative, some would call it the best inter-racial movie ever made and I wouldn’t blame them for that.

“Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) Lovely film. It grabbed me by the throat right from the first minute and didn’t let go until the very end. Splendid script. A brat of a white girl goes to Hawaii, meets a black man fourteen years her senior, but who has a long list of honors in the medical field, falls madly in love with him within twenty minutes. Hmmm!Eleven days later, she shows up at her parents home and gives them an ultimatum, “You have up to night to decide if you approve of our marriage.”

It’s a thriller, a liberal family facing hard decisions, and having to make up their mind whether to accept the marriage or not, and the clock is ticking. It gets complicated when the boy’s family show up for the dinner, and they have only an hour to decide whether they want their son to marry a white girl!

Watching this film reminded me so much of the plight of inter-caste marriage couples in Nepal. You hardly find a Nepali who openly supports the caste system. In fact, most of them now share water with Dalits (untouchables), and allow them to worship in temples, the two biggest symbols of caste-based apartheid. But like the Drayton couple in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, when their daughter decides to marry an untouchable, they begin to doubt their liberalness. They say to each other, “We never thought it would happen to us.” And though they might be willing to grant their daughter freedom to marry her love, the society at large will frown upon the marriage, and will force the family to commit atrocities against the couple, including torture, jail and murder. You will see all this in my documentary, Untouchable Love, coming soon. ‘Like’ this page on facebook to stay updated. www.facebook.com/untouchablelovenepal

What amazes me is this paradox. Individuals make up a society. If all individuals in the society think yellow is beautiful, then the society thinks yellow is beautiful. But in Nepal, (and South Asia), individuals are against the caste system, yet the society cannot accept inter-caste marriages! When their daughter announces that she will marry a low caste man, the liberal parents, who have been teaching their daughter that all are equal, will say, “that is against our culture. You can’t marry him. If you do, you are dead to us.” Mind boggling.

 Driving Miss Daisy (1989) Have you ever seen Morgan Freeman as a young man? I went into this film thinking I would finally see a younger version of one of my favorites. But I was surprised to discover he was already an old man with gray hair in 1989! Doesn’t he age? Is he some kind of wizard who stays old and never ages? :-) But he is likeable, it’s easy to see why fans fell in love with him. Just as this Jewish woman in the film, Miss Daisy, fell in love with him.

I thought it would be a hot romance, but it's a film about two old people meeting and falling in love, and because of their age, they don’t even get to kiss. They only feed each other some kind of sweet. You get the feeling that if they had met 70 years earlier, it might have been a hot and steamy and violently romantic affair :-)

 “Fools Rush In” (1997)
This movie made me fall in love with Salma Hayek. Before this, Jennifer Lopez was my girl. I had a huge poster of her in my university room. Then I saw this, and I thought, “Wow, such beautiful eyes! Such a lovely dancer!” My best sexual fantasies involve dancing women, and the dance Salma gave in her kitchen was simply incredible.

It’s one between a white man and a Latino woman – okay, I’ve talked a bit about these cases below, when a ‘high class’ man marries a ‘low class’ woman – and it’s a film that introduced me to Friends as well, for I hadn’t seen Mathew Perry before.

The Bodyguard” (1992) The worst of the lot. A very bad film. I guess they made for only to sell Whitney Houston’s rendition of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" – wasn’t that her only contribution to the film? But I talk about it because it’s the only one I’ve seen between a white man and a black woman – or you can say, a ‘high class man’, and a ‘low class woman’. It makes me wonder, why is it that the women are always from the ‘upper class’?

There are numerous stories of kings, and presidents, (and this world bank, Strauss-Khan, who raped a maid) impregnating their slaves, falling in love with their maids, but never owning the responsibility. Instead, they send the girls away, force them to abort, and do other horrible things.


In Nepal, all the cases I came across were of high caste women marrying low caste (untouchable) men. Those of low caste women and high caste men were very few indeed, and the explanation I got had something to do with patriarchy, gender questions, women being oppressed whether they are high caste or low, and marry the low caste men as a rebellion against the men of their class who oppress them. Prem Chowdhry, author of “Contentious Marriages, Eloping Couples”, tended to have this view. She also suggested it’s very hard for a high caste man to marry a dalit (untouchable) woman because of wealth distribution. Men inherit property. Women don’t. But if a high caste man marries a low caste, the property he inherits will be shared with the untouchables, which is something the high caste people do not want to happen.
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5 comments:

  1. Excellent reviews. I don't think I have seen any of these movies (apart from Spike Lee's which I can't remember now). I like the way you've interpreted it through caste too.

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  2. Thx, storycollector. I wanted to include "Island in the Sun, 1957" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050549/, but it was a very slow film (didn't watch it till the end on two attempts :-o), and a murder-mystery subplot distracted a lot from the main white girl-black boy romance. In fact, I thought the romance was a subplot, so I didn't include it in my list of favorite, though it is thought of as the first mainstream movie to deal with the subject of inter-racial relationships.

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  3. nice inspirated story about interracial .God bless you

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  4. Man,great article.I'm in an interracial romance myself.I'm Nigerian, married my Filipina girl, best thing that happened to me...lol.Hoping to read more of your love story.My wife and i are enjoyng your blog.

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  5. Thank you so much for this blog. I like Sam am married to a Filipina girl and I seem to be more appreciated by people outside of my race. I am a Jamaican/American and I grew up around mostly black people. I was always open minded though. I grew attracted to girls of other races. So when I migrated to the U.S. I had the opportunity. I can definitely relate to the story of "Mississippi Masala". I felt good after viewing it. I am also loving this blog. I feel at home here. Dilman, are you married to that lovely lady with you in the picture?

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-5IKFayIw5JQ/ThpGJ8louTI/AAAAAAAAALI/-czX8HqFfwI/s320/IMG_2083.JPG

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