BLACK BARBIE: A DOCUMENTARY – A Review by Jenn Rohm
When Lagueria Davis moved to LA, her aunt, Beulah Mae Mitchell, offered her a room to stay in. Conversations to get to know one another began and Lagueria learned some fascinating history that helped lead to Black Barbie: A Documentary being made. When Mitchell moved from Fort Worth, Texas to Los Angeles, California in the late 50s a friend helped her get a job with Mattel. She worked her way up and remained with the company for over 44 years.
With the name of the film and near the start being conversations with Mitchell about her days at Mattel I expected the focus to be specifically about Barbie. Davis brought so much more into the piece. With the use of interviews, group conversations, puppeteering of Barbie’s by FunCo, and children’s feedback there is a lot to unpack.
There were some very powerful moments from history including footage of the Clark Doll Experiment from 1947 showing the impact of choices made by Politicians on how innocent children viewed themselves. I learned that this experiment was a deciding factor in the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. The history of the Shindana Toy Company and Mattel helping it have a successful start was fascinating to me.
One of the biggest takeaways for me is that one person asked another person a question, leading to change. It didn’t require lawsuits or national media coverage. It was a moment between two people that respected each other that started the process. The first option isn’t always the strongest or the best. It can lead to more questions, ideas, and opinions being welcomed.
While I found the piece eye-opening, it does have me asking “Now what?” There were important questions being asked and ideas being raised. What does the viewer do with the knowledge they now have? How do we create safe places to have discussions and ask questions? What are other topics to be researched or actions to take?
Bentonville Film Festival feature entry
Director: Lagueria Davis
Written By: Lagueria Davis
Cast: Monica L Bailey, Kitty Black Perkins, Raj Brown
MPAA Rating: Not yet rated.
Selig Rating: 3 stars
Runtime: 1h 40m
Release Date: March 11, 2023
Movie Site: Black Barbie: A Documentary web site
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie/show, well worth the time and price.
4 Stars – Good movie/show
3 Stars – OK movie/show
2 Stars – Well there was nothing else…
1 Star – Total waste of time.