We Gotta Have It: Twenty Years of Seeing Black at the Movies, 1986-2006

What a marvelous twenty years it has been. We’ve seen Wesley Snipes canoodle with an Italian girl (Jungle Fever). We’ve seen Whoopi Goldberg with sunglasses and a matching nun outfit (Sister Act) and we’ve even seen 50 Cent relive his life story beside Joy Bryant in two hours flat (Get Rich or Die Tryin’). Through this illustrious pair of decades, celebrated film critic, Esther Iverem, has been there, popcorn and a red pen in hand, letting the movie population know if the box office debut was worth the ticket stub paper it was printed on. With the help of Thunder’s Mouth Press, the former Washington Post and Newsday staff writers has compiled her work into We Gotta Have It (Thunder’s Mouth Press), an anthology of her reviews and writings on nearly every African-American movie duplicated on reel since 1986.Esther Iverem’s project is simply encyclopedic. Most of her pieces are straight from the original article as they ran when they were first published. There’s truly something to be said for a critic who has reported on every major Black film the week it came out from her twenties to the present. Her first articles covered movies like Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America, and to this day, she has still proven that she is hip and relevant having written on recent films like T.I.’s acting debut ATL and Crossover with Anthony Mackey. She switches genres effortlessly, covering romances, action thrillers, hood movies, and comedies all in one easy breath.What sets Iverem aside from most critics is that she not afraid to call out the hypocrisies surrounding Black actors in the American film industry. In fact, she takes pride in looking for those issues that impede blacks from building substantial images in Hollywood. She is quick to denounce trifling, ignorant diva roles, new age minstrelsy, over-thugged thugs, and any scary movie where the black guy gets killed off a little too quickly. She is very stern yet down to earth in her reviews, showing that she is earnestly trying to hold African-American films to higher standards.We Gotta Have It is a throwback flip-through with a feminist tinge. About 1993’s Poetic Justice, she writes, “It is so refreshing, in our nonstop stream of movie testosterone, to have a movie starring a woman and told from her perspective.” In addition to its pro-black woman stance, the book chronicles virtually every movie that either had an African-American theme or featured a prominent black actor. Iverem definitely digs deep in the vaults for We Gotta Have It, so much so that it would be best to buy this book in conjunction with a netflix.com queue because those familiar titles from the day will reawaken some lost film streets of memory lane.      

Related Stories