A film is a reflection of its time, if not by choice, then by obvious circumstance. No film can distance itself from the historical context it finds itself produced in. Even if the filmmaker is in a self-desired bubble, the work speaks for itself, above and beyond what the director may have to say about it; the images hold weight and power. How we view them might ultimately change—some have aged right out of relevancy due to a shift in public perception—but the work remains its own artifact. 

Episodes of police brutality and government discrimination against people of color is not a subject untouched by cinema's history, but, due to unfortunate, unsettling recent real-life examples of such brutal acts, certain films depicting the biased harassment are now being brought back to light (and regarding brand new, contemporary entertainment, dealt with anew).

In an extension of her article published by The New York Times, a new video essay by Times' culture editor Aisha Harris explores the power of these cinematic images, as well as the power of 21st-century cell phone footage of police brutality uploaded online for all to plainly see. What effect do these images have on movies and what effect do the movies' images have on us?

Harris' video essay is compelling for its rumination on both the physical and psychological implications of police brutality. While some films and television series have documented the violence (and impending murder) outright, others have focused on the fear of the anticipation of violence, on the fear that you can be assumed guilty just because of the color of your skin. If you're walking out in public feeling guilty-until-proven-innocent, the minute the blue-and-red flashing of police lights come into your periphery, it's more than understandable that you would have your guard up. 

"Another trend that's been very interesting to see among film and TV shows," Harris points out, "has been narratives that explore the idea of police violence, but not in a very explicit way. The interaction doesn't lead to any grand moment or any shocking moment. Instead, it's just a very awkward moment."

Film can help accentuate those awkward moments, increasing the very palpable internal fear that arrives as a result of trauma related to past experience and prejudice. The long-lasting effects, as shown, for example, in Reinaldo Marcus Green's short film, Stop, and subsequent 2018 feature, Monsters and Men, are just as painful and difficult to heal as the physical scars.

What do you think of Harris' video essay? Is time to revisit these films and experience the power of the images in a new light? Have the powers of these cinematic images had an effect on society or have they merely mirrored them? Let us know in the comments below.